56 points, 3 stars
The epic Chinese classic and phenomenon published in the US for the first time!
A fantastical generational saga and kung fu epic, A Hero Born is the classic novel of its time, stretching from the Song Empire (China 1200 AD) to the appearance of a warlord whose name will endure for eternity: Genghis Khan. Filled with an extraordinary cast of characters, A Hero Born is a tale of fantasy and wonder, love and passion, treachery and war, betrayal and brotherhood.
And then a hero is born…
After his father, a Song patriot, was murdered, Guo Jing and his mother fled to the plains and joined Ghengis Khan and his people. Loyal, humble and driven, he learned all he could from the warlord and his army in hopes of one day joining them in their cause. But what Guo Jing doesn’t know is that he’s destined to battle an opponent that will challenge him in every way imaginable and with a connection to his past that no one envisioned.
With the help and guidance of his shifus, The Seven Heroes of the South, Guo Jing returns to China to face his foe and carry out his destiny. But in a land divided by treachery and war, betrayal and ambition, he’ll have to put his courage and knowledge to the test to survive.
Available in the US on Amazon and other major retailers September 17th, 2019. Preorder Now! (Already available in the UK and maybe elsewhere.)
“I don’t care about getting revenge,” she stuttered between sobs. “Even a hero like my husband was unable to defeat him. I’m just a wretched woman – how can I wait for him to be brought to justice? Just let me join my husband.”
I have to say, it was quite a trip figuring out the ins and outs of this particular book. This originally came out in China in 1957, but this is the first time it has been translated into English. In the US. Probably.
A Hero Born starts off with things going really wrong for the initial main characters. There are two married couples, and the husbands end up under threat and die. And the women are split up. They’re both pregnant.
Which is relevant because another person is like “oh shit this is fucked up, that shouldn’t have happened to these people. I’m going to avenge these guys!” And ends up fighting these other guys.
Which ends up relevant because they make a bet when they realize they are at an impasse. They will each go after and teach one of the children of the pregnant women the way of kung fu. Whichever child wins, there master was better because they were able to teach the kid better. You’re going “that’s nuts, who thinks that way?!” right? I was, too. Just accept it, it gets more…more from there.
That’s about the first fifteen percent of A Hero Born, followed by about 18 years worth of “this boy is useless in kung fu!”. Guo Jing is, of course, not useless in kung fu. But Guo Jing is a kind hearted, kind of slow young boy who grows into a young man. So he appears useless at kung fu. His teachers despair he will ever learn and win the bet. Because that is all that matters.
A Hero Born features a lot of heroic feats and tests of strength and honor. There are a lot of battles between individuals. Which means a lot of mean-spirited side characters, delving on truly awful. But also a lot of not so bad side-characters that showcase just how much of a better person Guo Jing really is than everyone else around him.
The focus of this book isn’t the characters, nor the setting. It isn’t really the people of China and Mongolia. It isn’t the fantasy, since this is Wuxia and even that takes a very long time to show up. Nope, it is about Guo Jing and how he is so kung fu other kung fu people are like “whoa look out for him, he’s so kung fu!” Because kung fu isn’t just a martial art, it is a way of life.
In other words this was completely and totally the opposite of what I typically want or even like in a book. And not in a good way, which often happens with me. The initial premise of of Ghengis Khan was interesting and all, but it just wasn’t enough for me. I won’t be continuing with the series, but it was worth the try.
I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Jin Yong and Anna Holmwood, St. Martin’s Press, and Netgalley for providing the opportunity to review this copy.