34 comments

  • Hmm… I’ve been curious about this one and actually have an ARC of the second book. But I’ve been hesitant to try it. I think the writing might turn me off.

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  • Looks like this is not for me after all, and not just because of “Monkey’s Fist of Heavenly Wrath”… Bad translation can kill the best of books, but this one looks to have some more problems than just translation. Cool review, Lashaan, I enjoyed the way you tenderly criticized it 😀

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    • I’m totally with you there. I think Dostoyevski’s books are the only ones that worked well for me so far. Maybe Chinese to English is just too hard to get right… At least, so far, it has been the case for me… Thanks for the kind words, Ola! I appreciate it a lot. 😀

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  • I really enjoyed this first book in the series and look forward to trying more. I absolutely saw some of the issues you point out, but thankfully there was enough there that resonated with me to keep my interest. Perhaps having grown up loving wuxia movies helped with some of it. It felt like a book perhaps originally written for a younger audience. And it’s always difficult not knowing if issues we find were in the original work or the result of difficulties in translation. This translation has not just langauge to deal with but the long history and cultural differences between current and original audiences. I do wonder about the interesting names of various moves, but that seems to also be the case in all the wuxia movies. I see those as difficult to translate as I don’t know that we have anything in our history or culture to call them that would in any way reflect whatever the original meaning was. But, this is also perhaps the first book of this sort I’ve read, so I don’t have much to compare it to other than the old movies of similar subjects.

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    • Yep. I remember when you mentioned how much you enjoyed it and how it made you nostalgic about those wuxia movies. In fact, while reading it, I also thought of those movies I used to enjoy, and still do! I could see through the issues all the lovely cultural elements of the narrative that make these stories so epic in their own way. While I wouldn’t call it the Chinese LotR or GoT, it is in a league of its own. I would definitely love to try the next book and see if the story’s direction can make things even better. I heard it also has a different translator. Who knows? Maybe it really goes a step in the right direction. 😀

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      • I completely agree, calling it a Chinese LotR is very misleading. It doesn’t feel even remotely like that. I’ve not read or watched GoT yet, but would likely agree on that, too. I’ve very rarely found those sorts of comparisons useful, and yet we still seem to get caught up in them, or at least the publishing industry does. 🙂 Here’s hoping the next book is better than the first.

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  • I was anticipating your opinion on this book when I saw it was on your to-read list for this month. I checked out the first few pages recently, and I agree, the story suffers noticeably from the translation, and it put me off. I’m no expert, but I feel like a more emotional or floral writing might have made the book more engaging while capturing the oriental beauty of historical China. Maybe this should push me to go improve my Mandarin, haha, so I can read the original text 😀

    Great review, as always!

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    • I agree with you there. Haruki Murakami’s books does it right (Japanese to English). And for a fantasy story, I think it’s even more important for it to have something closer to a flowery/purple prose… I still need to find a good Chinese-English translation though. So far, they always end up disappointing in one way or another. 😦 Thank you so much for reading!!! 😀

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      • I’ve never read Murakami’s works, mostly cuz I think it’s not my type of book, but I’m glad not all is lost when it comes to translated books. That means it’s possible, they just need to find the right translator! How about The Three-Body Problem? Have you read that? If so, was it translated well? It’s a chinese hard sci-fi novel by Liu Cixin and very popular in China. It got some Hugo award, too, I believe.

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  • It’s just a guess, but maybe names like ‘monkey’s fist of heavenly wrath’ jarrs the reader from the story because, aside from the obvious clunky sound, monkeys in western culture are viewed in a more comical way? In China, they see it as mischievous and cunning, although that’s not to say they don’t use it for comical relief. And I think in Chinese this term would’ve had 4 syllables, whereas the translation has 8! Quite a mouthful xD No wonder the movies do better

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    • You’re absolutely right, there. It’s why I still had fun though because I was used to the more “campy” style of martial arts movies back in the day and I could totally see it in this one here and then. But wow, that’s a very insightful point you bring! Thanks for sharing it with me. I knew there would be so much complications in this translation and that just illustrates it perfectly. 😉

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      • Hehe, thanks! I feel like both cultures views on monkeys share some common ground, just that the Chinese seem to respect them more(like the Monkey King ‘Wu Kong’. It’s a beloved classic here).

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  • Ha damn Lashaan!! I so loved that cover spotted on your IG feed and wanted that one to be good! That’s also why I began reading in English: the translation often left me wanting!

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  • Haaa the importance of a good translation… 😄 Especially with languages and cultures so different like English an Chinese! Apart from that, I have never read a Chinese fantasy book and now I really want to! 😊 Thanks for sharing Lashaan!

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    • I think, of all people out there, you probably understand this the most hahahaha I hear it’s already super complicated to translate Chinese to English too… Then again, Chinese fantasy stories could be sooooo beautiful and epic when you think about it! Thanks for reading, Juliette! 😀

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