Heroic Chronicles, or Ying Xiong Zhi in Pingyin, is written by Sun Xiao, a part-time author living in Taiwan. It is his debut work, which is surprising given the book's scope and quality. It is also a work in progress, being published in large parts over a 10-year period, by a publishing house started by the author with the hope of reinvigorating the wuxia genre, which many would say has been in slow decline in recent years. Reportedly the book will conclude in 2006. Already the length is at million plus words. It is arguably one of the most critically acclaimed wuxia novels to come out in recent years.
I'll attempt to give a rough summary and highly subjective review of the book. The overall quality of Ying Xiong Zhi, even though it is not yet finished, is considered by many to approach closely, if not exceed, that of Jing Yong's better works. It is written like traditional wuxia, but also intermixes historical fiction and romantic drama. The author's style, choice of words, historical and literary knowledge, as well as creativeness are all top rate. In many areas it can be compared favorably against the works of Gu Long, and certainly surpasses that of Huang Yi, whose books though filled with interesting events lack substance. Sun Xiao is especially adept at character portrayal. Like DGSD, there's not just one protagonist, but an ensemble of primary characters, all of which lead essential plots indispensable to the whole. The author pays just as much attention to supporting characters, and even minor, throw-away roles are brought to life unforgettably.
The book is set in the Ming dynasty. The main plot begins when the top army general is accused of murdering the emperor while both are on a military campaign against a border tribe. His family is put to death by the new emperor, and he is forced into rebellion with army elements loyal to him. Many years later, a secret message etched on sheepskin surfaces that hints the general was innocent, and the former emperor may yet be alive. This is not something those now in power want to be known...
- Lu Yun, a poor literary student with a strong sense of moral righteousness. He seeks to "do what is right" regardless of the sacrifice. A good and honorable man, his growth from nobody to a heroic figure is one of the most gripping plot elements.
- Wu Ding Yuan, a prudent and capable police detective. His investigation into a massacre connected to the sheepskin and his stubborn pursuit of those responsible would lead him to take on ever heavier burdens of responsibility and power.
- Qin Zhong Hai, an officer of the imperial army known for his martial prowess and coarse habits. He serves his superiors bravely, but has a rebellious and forthright streak that is unafraid of confrontation, even against those more powerful. He thinks himself an orphan, raised by a shifu who is one of the strongest martial artists in the world, but there may be more dangerous secrets to his lineage.
- Yang Su Guan, a young and accomplished government official. An enigmatic character, he can appear very unalike to different people. To his friends he's generous, loyal and dependable; to his foes, devious and skillful; to the women that fall for his urbane demeanor and courtly manners, kind, caring and the perfect lover. His heart's desire however, may be something grander and more terrifying than any of them can imagine.
I've done all I can to try to catch your attention. The book is well worth a read, if it's the last thing you do. You won't be able to put it down once you've gone past a few chapters. For now it's only available in Chinese, but can be found on a lot of websites devoted to wuxia fiction, and creative writing in general. At this link you can download the simplified Chinese version, up to part 19, which is all that has been published (main link). Hardcopy can be found at shops that carry Taiwanese publications.