Earlier this year I came across a brand new Chinese martial arts novel. Apparently a web site in China organized a competition to find new martial arts writers. 多情浪子癡情俠 by the female writer 鄭丰 won the top prize and was voted the most popular entry by web readers. 中華書局 published this novel in a 4 volume set, with the last two volumes debuting at the Hong Kong Book Fair. According to the blurb on the inside cover, the author was born in Taiwan, and received her university education in the US; she married and moved to London, before migrating to Hong Kong as a full time banker. She wrote the novel in London, a period when she did not have to work.
多情浪子癡情俠 focuses on two heroes : 趙觀 and 凌昊天. The former is clearly modeled on Louis Cha’s 韋小寶, a wily and smooth talker who wins over the ladies. The latter is a top swordsman with few peers but falls in love with his elder brother’s fiancee. The novel follows these two characters from the beginning when they are just kids to the end when they become saviours of China (against invaders) and torchbearers of the new generation. 趙觀 is the more fascinating character as he must navigate through the dangerous waters of the secret societies in the hope of avenging the death of his mother.
Written for initial “publication” online, the novel comprises of short chapters and the plot progresses very rapidly. This is a pro and a con : positive in that novel draws readers in quickly, but negative because too many plot points are glossed over. As a debut novel, I found it very readable. Prose is simple, crisp and unpretentious. Despite a large cast, characters were generally likeable if not particularly developed in depth.
Most martial arts novelist live under the shadow of the three greats – Louis Cha 金庸, Gu Long 古龍 and Liang Yusheng 梁羽生. How does this new novel fare in comparison? Well, it cannot claim to be being a masterpiece despite publicity dubbing the author a female Louis Cha. The novel does not break any ground stylistically (unlike Gu Long’s works) and the plot can hardly be deemed original,as it clearly owes more than a little debt to Louis Cha’s works. But considering that the author is basically an amateur novelist and this is her first work, let’s not be too harsh on the novel. After all, decent new martial arts novels are VERY rare. And while 多情浪子癡情俠 isn’t a seminal work, it does deliver good entertainment.