Book Review: A Hero Born

This was touted as a Chinese LOTR so of course I was interested! I received this book as an ARC from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A Hero Born

by Jin Yong
Translated by Anna Holmwood

This is an epic story of battle and betrayal.

The Writing

This one it is hard to evaluate the writing. Really I’m evaluating the translation. As a reader, I found this translation very difficult to follow. I teach ESL and I love learning about other cultures, so I was excited to immerse myself in a story originally written in Chinese. The words are translated to English, but there was so much in the way everything was phrased that I really could not follow this story very well. I kept having to look back and determine who this character was in relation to others.

I wanted to like this book because I love stories that have a large cast of character and a rich history. This seems like a story that has that. Unfortunately, I couldn’t grasp the cultural context, subtleties of the Chinese culture enough to grasp this story. I couldn’t relate to the characters or understand their motives. Here is an example of sentences from chapter one:

“I am forever in Madam’s debt, for you saved my life.” (I’m no translation expert but why use the word Madam?)

Later, Yan Lie realizes he has been robbed when the hotel attendant asks for payment. Instead of having the police summoned, he starts a fight with the attendant and beats up some thugs to get the police involved. Then when the police come, he presents a letter to summon the governor of the town. WHY? Why, when he realized he’d been robbed, did he not just ask the attendant to summon the police and the governor to find out who robbed him? I read plenty of novels with violence but in those stories there is usually a good reason for it. This is one example in which I feel like I am missing something because the book has sold enough copies to warrant several reprints, so clearly the book is good, at least to some. This makes me think it makes more sense to those who read it in the original language.

I wish the translator had taken more liberties in her translation to make the story more understandable for the american population.

Who Will Like This?

I can’t recommend this book for students. It is not aimed at students. For example, from what I can understand, Charity is married to a man. Yan Lie is part of an army group that attacks their village. Charity finds Yan Lie wounded and saves him. Yan Lie later returns, murders Charity’s husband and kidnaps her. Charity, not knowing he is her husband’s murderer, falls in love with this kidnapper.

So who will like this? I think those who read it in the original language, would like this.

Professional Reader

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