Fantastical Kung fu Swordsmen Woven Into Historical Events: Legends of the Condor Heroes by Jin Yong

Fantastical Kung fu Swordsmen Woven Into Historical Events: Legends of the Condor Heroes by Jin Yong

St. Martin’s Press paperback editions. Cover design by Ervin Serrano

Louis Cha Leung-yung, known more widely by his pen name Jin Yong, was a Hong Kong wuxia author whose tales of martial arts heroes in ancient China made him one of the most popular writers of all time. He wrote 15 books between 1955 – 1972, and by the time of his death in 2018 he was the best-selling Chinese author. The New Yorker proclaimed that “in the Chinese-speaking world, has a cultural currency roughly equal to that of Harry Potter and Star Wars combined,” and The Guardian called him “The world’s biggest kung fu fantasy writer.” CNN said that “Cha’s stories were epic, featuring not just fantastical kung fu swordsmen who can fly and walk on water, but also complex characters and plots woven into dramatic historical events.”

At long last four of his most popular fantasy novels have been given modern English translations, and mass market editions in the US. The Legends of the Condor Heroes series has sold over 300 millions copies worldwide; here’s the Kirkus Review of the first volume.

A somewhat simple-minded young man named Guo Jing, raised by his mother after his father’s untimely death, grows up in a world torn apart by palace intrigues and stewing political factions behind the Great Wall. On the other side, there’s a vast Mongol army led by none other than Genghis Khan… Fighting their way across the landscape with Guo are bands of Song dynasty patriots and traitors as well as legendary martial artists with names like The Eastern Heretic Apothecary Huang and Double Sun Wang Chongyang — oh, yes, and the Seven Freaks of the South… Jin Yong draws on a body of legend, history, Taoist precepts, and various martial arts traditions to serve up a tale of stylized contests…. Fans of sword-and-sorcery fantasy and historical fiction alike will enjoy this hard-hitting yarn.

Here’s the back covers for the first three books.

[Click the images for leveled-up versions.]

Back covers for the first three books in the series

Swapna Krishna, writing for SyFy Wire last year, included the opening novel A Hero Born in 10 SFF Books You Shouldn’t Miss This September.

This is the first book in an epic Chinese classic kung fu fantasy that’s been compared to George R. R. Martin and J. K. Rowling, translated into English by Anna Holmwood and available in the US for the first time. It starts with Guo Jing, who grew up in Genghis Khan’s army after his father was murdered. As he grows into adolescence in Mongolia, a group called the Seven Heroes of the South searches for the boy, intent on bringing him back to China and to train him in martial arts… pick it up as soon as you can and check out its majesty for yourself.

The first three volumes have been published in the US by St. Martin’s Press; the fourth and final book arrives in April. Here’s the publishing details.

A Hero Born (432 pages, $27.99 hardcover/$18.99 paperback/$12.99 digital, March 10, 2020) — first published 1957
A Bond Undone (544 pages, $30.99 hardcover/$17.99 paperback/$11.99 digital, March 24, 2020) — first published 1959
A Snake Lies Waiting (448 pages, $30.99 hardcover/$18.99 paperback/$12.99 digital, September 8, 2020) — first published 1959
A Heart Divided (400 pages, $30.99 hardcover/$18.99 paperback/$12.99 digital, April 20, 2021)

See all our recent coverage of the best new fantasy series here.

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Carl E. Reed

Wow! A Chinese literary phenomena roughly equal in the eastern world to “Harry Potter and Star Wars combined”. This wasn’t even on my radar! Thanks for bringing this to our attention, John. (How did we ever stay informed BEFORE Black Gate?!)

Joe H.

I’m happy that these are starting to get English language releases — I’ve seen lots of wuxia movies based on novels over the years (including the Swordsman trilogy based novels by Louis Cha/Jin Yong) and have always been curious to go back and check out the original sources.

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