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Publisher's Summary

A Heart Divided is the final installment in the high stakes, tension-filled epic Legends of the Condor Heroes series, where kung fu is magic, kingdoms vie for power and the battle to become the ultimate kung-fu master unfolds.

China: AD 1200

Guo Jing and Lotus have escaped Qiu Qianren’s stronghold, but at a steep price: Lotus has been mortally wounded. The only one who could save her life is Duan, King of the South, a man skilled and renowned for his healing. But little do they know that danger awaits, including a plan to tear them apart.

As the Mongol armies descend on China, Guo Jing will have to make the toughest decision of all - rejoin the people who raised him to avenge his father or fight against his homeland. The ultimate battle for China and Guo Jing’s future plays out in the sweeping, high stakes adventure of A Heart Divided, where one choice can change the world. 

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin's Griffin

©2021 Jin Yong, Gigi Chang, and Shelly Bryant (P)2021 Macmillan Audio

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“Being a hero can't save your life”

Yay! I finally got to finish Jin Yong’s influential and wonderful Legends of the Condor Heroes (1957-59), as the fourth and final volume of the classic wuxia epic, A Heart Divided, capably translated into English for the first time by Gigi Chang and Shelly Bryant (2020), recently became available on Audible.

The last volume starts where the third left off: the young soulmates Guo Jing and Lotus Huang are escaping from the Iron Palm Gang, when Guo Jing carries his terribly wounded lover into a black swamp, desperate to find help for her. There they find a bizarre woman, Madam Ying the Supreme Reckoner, prematurely aged after ten years in the swamp spent mastering her own Weatherfish Slip kung fu technique and trying to solve abstruse mathematical problems, all in her effort to get revenge. “For more than a decade, Madame Yang had been curdling in shattered dreams of lost love, growing ever more bitter and spiteful.” Thus, when she sees the earnest young lovers, she wavers between helping them and relishing their plight. How should Guo Jing and Lotus interpret her recited poem about love prematurely turning the hair white like the white plumes on mandarin ducks who mate for life? Or her saying things like, “It’s human nature to stand by and do nothing. Any fool can beg.” Should Guo Jing and Lotus believe her assertion that Lotus has but three days to live and that the only person who can save her is three days’ distance?

Many other questions are raised in this last volume of the epic:

What will Guo Jing and Lotus do about his dilemma, knowing that they are soulmates but that he promised to marry Genghis Kahn’s daughter Khojin? What will happen when Genghis Kahn sets his sights on Guo Jing’s Song Empire in the south? Which martial master will win the twenty-year reunion competition on Mount Hua? Will everyone’s worst nemesis Viper Ouyang ever get his just deserts? Will the love triangle between Soul Light, the Hoary Urchin, and Madam Ying get resolved? Will Guo Jing return his scheming and lying blood brother Yang Kang back to “the path of righteousness”? Will he finally get revenge on the slimy Jin prince Wanyang Honlie for the murder of his parents or reunite with his first martial mentors, the Six Freaks of the South? Will he find a way to live in the world with kung fu when fearing that his pursuit of martial excellence has only brought harm to other people?

The way such questions are answered is satisfying but sad, and the tone of this last volume is darker than that of the first three, because the entire epic depicts the maturing of Guo Jing and Lotus Huang from innocent teenagers full of the joy of life into more seasoned twenty-year-olds who have experienced soul damaging personal loss and hardship as well as the suffering that war wreaks on common people.

Though it is a darker book than the previous three, it still contains plenty of pleasures. For example, the love between the good, optimistic, and blockheaded Guo Jing and the reckless, brilliant, and scheming Lotus is, as ever, sweet and moving (“I’d rather know no kung fu than see you hurt again”), though it does turn sad (“The more adventures we have together the more memories we'll have to share when we're apart”) and even becomes a little scary (“He wondered at the havoc that love could wreak on the heart”).

There are many colorful kung fu repertoires (e.g., Dog Beating Cane, Dragon Subduing Palm, Cascading Peach Blossom Palms, Exploding Toad) and moves (e.g., Crunch Frost as Ice Freezes, Strike Grass Startle Snake, Flip the Mangey Dog Away). Many lines like, “He then let fly with a Dragon in the Field,” “He aimed at the Great Sun pressure point at the temple,” and “He launched a Hearty Laughter, hooking a finger in the corner of Viper’s mouth.” A panoply of weapons, from the expected (hands, feet, swords, spears etc.) to the exotic (metal fans, iron flutes, scribe brushes, exorcist staffs, martial phlegm, etc.). Needless to say, there’s a lot of imaginative, varied, and suspenseful action, from one-on-one kung fu duels to sieges of great cities.

There are many beautiful and vivid descriptions, like “it [a finger] was as lithe and agile as a dragonfly dipping its tail into water,” and “Perched on the very brink above the jagged rocks below, she resembled a white camellia shivering in a storm.”

There are many memorable aphorisms, such as “Emperors and generals are the bane of the people,” “It is in the nature of cruel and evil men to hate anyone who is their opposite,” “Virtue, loyalty, and integrity are more important than martial or literary prowess,” and “In victory or defeat, to earth we return.”

There is plenty of Jin Yong’s entertainingly outrageous “sheer coincidence,” impossible chance meetings that feel perfectly inevitable.

The audiobook reader Daniel York Loh reads the lines of the large and varied cast of characters with enthusiasm and distinctive personalities and moods and agendas without over-dramatizing and reads the base narration with perfect understanding, pacing, and emphasizing. His readings of all four volumes enhance and unify the texts of their three different translators.

An Appendix: Notes on the Text closes the audiobook, concisely explaining things like lyric poetry, the kingdom of Dali, “rice” paper, jade, a famous translator from Sanskrit into Chinese, spirits in Hinduism and Buddhism, Genghis Kahn, Samarkand, the Confucian canon, and the author Jin Yong (1924-2018) and his works (300 million in legal sales, 1 billion in pirated).

A Heart Divided is a complex novel of many genres: bildungsroman, love story, murder mystery, martial arts novel, historical novel, military novel. Perhaps most affectingly it’s an anti-war novel. The romance of Genghis Kahn unifying the Mongols and conquering a vast empire in the first volume is here starkly revealed to be a vast atrocity, as Guo Jing and Lotus travel past abandoned villages on roads lined with human skeletons. Lotus says, “I know what soldiers are like. You feast on common people.”

A Heart Divided concludes Legends of the Condor Heroes (which has been called the Chinese Lord of the Rings but which is a very different classic) with a somber poem:

Embers in the flames of war,
Few homes left in villages poor.
No rush to cross the river at dawn,
The flawed moon sinks into cold sand.

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Simply Amazing

This like so few was a book that made you thirst for more and more. It was difficult to put down at time to address other demands.
It is a discover I have passed on to my grandchildren. Like Russian classics the author takes you on a literary journey sprinkled with History, Philosophy, Religion, Virtue and the conundrum of living a life of Righteousness and Justice in it’s many twists and turns and challenges.
Thank you!!

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Perhaps we too may walk as heroes

The people in my life who spent their formative years in the Chinese speaking world often mention Jin Yong as a major influence in their worldview: his mix of chivalry and comedy, history and social commentary, magic and diligent study. I will never forget the saga of Guo Jing and Huang Rong.

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Phenomenal end to the series

As a person with some understanding of the Wu xia setting (grew up watching HK drama) and knows some Chinese but not good enough to read the Chinese version, this book has got to be one of my best read so far. I would've never known how great of a novelist the late Jin Yong was.

These four books takes you on one of the most colorful and heart warming journey you will ever hear, and the narrator is great at translating the Chinese nuances in English (I.e.: saying the Chinese names in the correct tone/using common Chinese phrases like "aiyooo" which basically means omg in English)

it saddens me that this is the final book available in audible. i didn't even want this adventure to end. why is it only 20 hours long. it should have been 100 hours at the very least. I was hoping that they could bring over the series sequel Return of the Condor Heroes as well. please make this happen.

Support this series. You won't regret it

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Great!

Wow, the story really end and I don't want it to end. Its wrapped up very nicely. This was by far 1 of the best story I had listen to. All the characters and places in story was so so good. I will start listen to it again from the very beginning book 1.