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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Snake Lies Waiting
Legends of the Condor Heroes - III

Jin Yong

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To purchase A Snake Lies Waiting

Title: A Snake Lies Waiting
Author: Jin Yong
Genre: Novel
Written: 1959 (Eng. 2020)
Length: 424 pages
Original in: Chinese
Availability: A Snake Lies Waiting - US
A Snake Lies Waiting - UK
A Snake Lies Waiting - Canada
Le Justicier et l'Aigle mythique (III) - France
  • Legends of the Condor Heroes (Volume 3)
  • Chinese title: 射鵰英雄傳
  • Translated by Anna Holmwood and Gigi Chang

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Our Assessment:

B : fine, fun (though of course not yet conclusive) continuation of the story

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 14/5/2020 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The story will feel slow for new readers, but fans of Yong's previous Condor Heroes novels will appreciate the convergence of many separate subplots and the enthralling ending, which serves as a strong setup for the next in the series. This is a solid installment." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       A Snake Lies Waiting begins right where A Bond Undone left off, plunging the reader right into a fast and furious sequence of events. The opening sentence already starts things off, as ship-board: "Count Seven, Zhuo Botong, and Guo Jing rushed out of the cabin and were shocked to find the water already up to their shins". the very ground sinking away under them and soon leaving them flopping around in the water. The catastrophes follow almost ridiculously quickly, as they tumble not just from frying pan into fire but from one fire into the next (including, eventually -- meaning barely thirty pages in, here --, literally). If the sharks don't get them, then what of the ship that fishes them out of the water -- bringing them face to face with none less than the Venom of the West, Viper Ouyang, and the young man known as his nephew, Gallant ?
       Viper has his reasons for trying to save them: Guo Jing has memorized the Nine Yin Manual, and Viper wants him to transcribe it for him, so that he can learn its secrets. That buys Guo Jing and Count Seven some time, but not much; besides, Viper has no need or use for them after he has the valuable pages, and so their future does not look promising.
       A bit of luck -- and some help from Guo Jing's trusty condors -- brings help in the form of Guo Jing's great love, Lotus Huang, but the dramatic melee aboard the burning, sinking ship merely leads to the next near-hopeless situation. If Lotus and Count Seven manage to find temporary safety on a desert island, Gallant's presence keeps them on their toes. Naturally, Guo Jing and Viper soon wash up there as well, making for a tense stand-off. Significantly, two are weakened or injured: Count Seven continues to suffer from the aftereffects of Viper's attack on him, while Gallant falls into one of Lotus' traps. Count Viper -- by far the most accomplished martial artist among them, now that Count Seven isn't anywhere near full-strength -- can't lash out as he wants to because he needs their help.
       Too honorable, Count Seven, Guo Jing, and Lotus can't bring themselves to rid themselves of Venom and his would-be nephew when the opportunities arise, as Count Seven insists:

     "Helping others in their time of need is one of the principles of the Beggar Clan," Count Seven said. "We represent two generations of Clan leadership. We cannot abandon our customs that have been passed down to us from our ancestors."
       Lotus has other ideas, but she defers to her shifu -- who, in his weakened state, has also handed off his bamboo stick and with it his leadership role in the powerful Beggar Clan to the teenager (she is only fifteen).
       Unsurprisingly, then, too, Venom and Gallant continue to be thorns in their sides, as their paths continue to cross even once they have escaped the island.
       Even when Guo Jing and Lotus escape Venom and his cohorts, more damage is done: Lama Supreme Wisdom tells Apothecary Huang -- Lotus' father, who had set off looking for her -- that she and Guo Jing are dead, leading him to swear vengeance on those responsible for his daughters death. Since he can't vent his anger of Guo Jing -- whom he believes to also be dead -- he sets his sights on Guo Jing's shifus, the Six Freaks of the South. (This storyline feels a bit underdeveloped; one would have expected at last a bit more of a trail of devastation as Apothecary Huang seeks vengeance; as is, it peters out rather quickly.)
       Much of the action then converges on the practically deserted Ox Village -- "Ox Village seemed to attract everyone she knew, Lotus reflected. Guo Jing's hometown had wonderful feng shui". In the course of events Guo Jing is injured and needs time to recover, so Lotus sequesters him and herself in a secret chamber they discovered (complete with treasure chest and skeletons), essentially locking themselves in for the seven days it takes Guo Jing to regain his health. They have a prime view of the goings-on -- since everyone keeps showing up -- but have to stay out of the action for as long as possible. With Lotus' father, Apothecary Huang, the Six Freaks of the South, and Guo Jing's inconvenient fiancée, Khojin, the daughter of Genghis Khan, among those coming through, Guo Jing and Lotus eventually have to reveal themselves and try to sort things out. The problem of Guo Jing having promised to marry Khojin is certainly an enormous one -- infuriating Apothecary Huang, and devastating for Guo Jing and Lotus. Guo Jing insists that, even though he loves only Lotus, he can't go back on his word. For all that, in one of the novels less satisfactory turns, everyone seems fine simply leaving this giant elephant in the room and going about their other business: Khojin simply turns around and heads off again with her entourage, while Guo Jing and Lotus continue together on their quests.
       Once on their way again, searching for Count Seven, Guo Jing and Lotus encounter the Beggar Clan. Before Lotus can reveal that her shifu had passed the leadership-baton on to her she and Guo Jing find themselves captured (and gagged), and Lotus finds her position usurped by a desperate Yang Kang, who claims that he is the rightful next leader of the Clan. Naturally, it comes to a drawn-out confrontation again; Lotus does a good job of staking her claim but is unable to deal with all her enemies -- including Yang Kang, who slips away. A final confrontation then sees Guo Jing and Lotus uncover the truth behind yet another confounding adversary, Qiu Qianren. A dramatic rescue -- the helpful condors again arriving just in time -- then sets the stage for the final installment in the four-volume story .....
       A Snake Lies Waiting continues to offer much of the same excitement as the two previous volumes of Legends of the Condor Heroes, though it is a bit unevenly paced. After a rip-roaring beginning, the action does bog down a little at times. Significantly, Guo Jing and Lotus are bystanders -- there, essentially, but unable to act -- for longer stretches than is comfortable, notably when they are in hiding in the secret room in Ox Village. Jin Yong's enormous cast of characters and their crisscrossing paths are, as always, a lot to juggle, and certainly some enmities and conflicts get short shrift, but keeping the focus fairly tightly around (if not always directly on) Guo Jing and Lotus at least makes for a reasonably coherent picture. And, of course, it does help that a lot of the action and fights are very well done: some of the names of the moves (and their unlikely devastating effects) might sometimes seem rather much, but on the whole Jin Yong plays the fight-game -- from the brief flick of the wrist to the drawn-out battle -- consistently well.
       Somewhat frustrating is the fact that not everyone is sufficiently straightforward when occasions demand. The trickery, lies, and deceit are one thing when enemies are involved -- perfectly understandable -- but for those more or less on the same side, being more upfront with each other would certainly be helpful. If Guo Jing is completely candid, at least about matters such as his feelings for Lotus and his promise to marry another, others needlessly muddy the waters -- as, for example, when:
     There had been a grave misunderstanding -- Apothecary Huang knew this, now -- but he considered it beneath him to try to explain the situation.
       The relationship between Guo Jing and Lotus is quite touching here, though Jin Yong continues to keep his characters in a state of great innocence: there's a bit of (verbal) fumbling about the physical attraction between men and women, but both the youngsters -- and they are, after all, still very young -- remain clueless as to actual intimacy, and, despite being in constant close proximity, manage not to explore anything in this regard. But Jin Yong's treatment of the devastating news that Guo Jing is promised to another -- a burden he has been carrying with him for a while, but which Lotus only now learns -- is not so much flat as one of avoidance: he throws it out there, but then continues almost as if nothing happened; the resolution of Guo Jing's dilemma will be interesting to see.
       Much here promisingly sets the stage for the final quarter of the work, including Lotus' new role as chief of the Beggar Clan. Jin Yong has made a very strong character out of her, nicely capturing youthful impetuousness and her attempts to check it, and she and Guo Jing make for an entertaining pair.
       If very much a middle set of chapters, with almost everything still left up in the air, A Snake Lies Waiting is another fine installment of the larger work.

- M.A.Orthofer, 17 November 2020

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A Snake Lies Waiting: Reviews: Other books by Jin Yong (Louis Cha) under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Chinese author Jin Yong (金庸; actually 查良鏞)), also known as Louis Cha, lived 1924 to 2018.

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