The third book in the Condor Trilogy by Jin Yong, set a century after the end of The Return of the Condor Heroes.
The story revolves around a pair of priceless and extremely powerful weapons, known respectively as the Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, which many covet. Either or both of them are thought to allow their wielder to rule the wulin.
The hero, Zhang Wuji, is of mixed heritage: his father, Zhang Cuishan, hails from the reputable Wudang Sect under the master Zhang Sanfeng, while his mother, Yin Susu, is from the unorthodox Heavenly Eagle Cult. As a boy, he lives with them and his godfather, Xie Xun, on the isolated northern island where he was born. He returns to the Chinese mainland and loses his parents after they are cornered on Mount Wudang by several pugilists coveting the Dragon-slaying Saber. At the same time, he is wounded by the Xuanming Elders and survives after seeking medical treatment from Hu Qingniu, a master physician.
His adventures further lead him to discover the long-lost Nine Yang Manual and he masters the inner energy skills within, becoming a formidable fighter. Subsequently, he resolves the conflict between the Ming Cult and the six major orthodox sects, who are intent on destroying the cult. He earns the respect of the cult's members and becomes its leader. He reforms the cult and helps to improve its relations with the other sects. He becomes a key figure in leading the rebel forces to overthrow the Yuan Dynasty.
Has a character sheet.
Tropes exclusive to this book or at least especially prominent in it:
- Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Heaven Sword and the Dragon Sabre which break upon clashing into each other.
- Action Girl: Zhao Min, Zhou Zhiruo.
- Animal Motifs: The Four Ming Cult Guardians have one each; namely dragon, eagle, lion and bat.
- Bad Ass Army: The Wu Xing Flags of the Ming Cult in the later chapters.
- Bare-Fisted Monk
- Boss in Mook Clothing: Zhao Min's three servants A'da, A'er and A'san (literally Number One, Number Two and Number Three). One is a Master Swordsman, the other two are top-tier pugilists. A'san is able to kill a high-ranked Shaolin monk.
- The Casanova: Yang Xiao is implied to be this in his younger days. Zhang Wuji is verging on this in the new edition, when he fantasised about keeping his entire harem of admirers.
- Chick Magnet: Zhang Wuji. He even dreams of marrying all four of his love interests.
- Childhood Friend Romance: Zhang Wuji and Zhou Zhiruo. And arguably Zhu-er towards Zhang Wuji.
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Zhou Zhiruo, who later becomes an out-and-out Yandere towards Zhang Wuji.
- Continuity Nod:
- The girl in yellow dress who appeared twice in the story is believed to be the descendant of Yang Guo from The Return of the Condor Heroes.
- The cryptic message that He Zudao was asked to deliver to the Shaolin Monk in chapter 2 was actually the location of an important martial art scroll. However, because the message He Zudao delivered was wrong, no one was able to understand it. Much later in the story, the main protagonist accidentally found said scroll.
- Contrived Coincidence: Zhang Wuji just happens to fall down a cliff, eventually get shelter in a cave, then find a monkey whose body the Nine Yang Manual was sewn in. The "fall off a cliff, learn martial art" is the most common cliche in Wuxia novel, though.
- Dark Action Girl: Zhou Zhiruo.
- Deathbed Confession: Subverted by Yin Susu, who pretended to reveal the whereabouts of Xie Xun and the Dragon Sabre to a Shaolin Monk as a Thanatos Gambit to screw over her enemies.
- Deep Cover Agent:
- Fan Yao, who disfigured himself and went deep cover in Zhao Min's camp.
- Xiao Zhao tried to be this. It took Yang Xiao about 5 seconds to realise she's a spy.
- Driven to Suicide: Zhang Cuishan and Yin Susu.
- Extreme Doormat: Zhang Wuji actually has a very weak mind despite all his deeds. All his motivations keep getting swung around by the harem and the people around him.
- FaceHeel Turn: Song QingShu because Love Makes You Evil
- Forgot I Could Change the Rules: How the members of the Ming Cult forced Wuji to become their leader — the Ming Cult was under the second wave of attacks from the orthodox sects and could only escape to the the forbidden passage if the cult leader changed the rule.
- Good Is Not Soft: Wuji is a Nice Guy who cares about everybody, yes, but make no mistake that does not make him a coward and a weakling.
- He Who Fights Monsters: Cheng Kun deliberately provoked Xie Xun into this as part of his Evil Plan.
- Honey Trap: Despite her Lawful Stupid facade, this is Nun Miejue's modus operandi against the Ming Cult. She tried to get Ji Xiaofu to do this to Yang Xiao and Zhao Zhiruo to Wuji.
- I Just Want to Be Normal: Zhang Wuji, who eventually quits his job by the end of the novel.
- Improbable Age: a little sleuthing reveals that all of the Ming Cult leaders (except the Eagle King) were in their early twenties when Yang Dingtian, Wuji's predecessor, died.
- Karma Houdini: Zhou Zhiruo.
- Last Girl Wins: Zhao Min was the very last girl Wuji met out of his harem of admirers.
- Lawful Stupid: The most sympathetic reading of Nun Miejue.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: Even by Jin Yong's standard, Heaven Sword and Dragon Sabre has an absurd number of characters. This point is driven home in the 1999 TVB adaptation, when the Ming Cult's Five Men Band is cut to Three in order to save costs.
- Love Dodecahedron: Wuji and his harem of admirers plus Song Qingshu and Zhou Zhiruo.
- The Dragon Sabre, leading to many MacGuffin Melee.
- Strangely averted with The Heaven Sword, which no one cared about despite being as valuable as The Dragon Sabre.
- That is probably because of the legend surrounding the swords; the wielder of the Heaven Sword would supposedly become the top martial arts pugilist but the wielder of the Dragon Sabre would essentially be able to conquer the world. Naturally, the Dragon Sabre would be the more coveted of the two. Also, the E-mei sect has held the Heaven Sword since it was forged, and so has a more legitimate right to it. The Dragon Sabre, on the other hand, has never been held by anyone for long.
- MayDecember Romance: Yang BuHui and Yin LiTing
- Manipulative Bastard: Cheng Kun.
- Meaningful Name: Yang Buhui which literally means no regret.
- Mighty Roar: Xie Xun's Lion Roar drove everyone on Wang Pan Shan into madness.
- Nice Guy: Zhang Wuji, full stop.
- Not the Fall That Kills You: A common Jin Yong's trope. Wuji not only survived his cliff jump but gained an ancient Wuxi text that cured his internal injuries and gave him awesome wushu skill.
- Second Love: Wuji's first (and arguably strongest) love being Zhiruo. It takes her completely screwing it up for him to eventually decide to go with Zhao Min.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Zhang Wuji and Zhao Min with Zhang Wuji being the figurehead of the Ming Cult which was revolting against the Yuan dynasty government whom Zhao Min was part of, being a princess and all.
- Tangled Family Tree: Ji Xiaofu, Yang Xiao, Yang Buhui and Yin Liting. Ji Xiaofu was engaged to Yin Liting when she was raped by Yang Xiao and subsequently had Yang Buhui. 18 years later, Yang Buhui fell in love with Yin Liting largely because she pitied him for losing Ji Xiaofu to her father. No wonder even Yang Xiao was speechless when Wuji broke the news.
- The Empire: The Yuan dynasty.
- Time Skip: A huge leap. We jumped from a teenaged Zhang Sanfeng to his 90th birthday between chapter 2 and 3.
- And then some as the protagonist, Zhang Wuji grows up.
- Took a Level in Badass: Zhou Zhiruo after learning from the Jiu Yin scroll hidden in the swords.
- Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Zhou Zhiruo. She went Yandere over Zhang Wuji dating another girl and acting really antagonistic towards him at one point. The events of the plot (Cheng Kun stirs up the relationship between the orthodox sects and Ming cult) could also be a factor.
- Wham Line: Yin Susu's final word to her son: to kill everyone presented once he's grown up. Fortunately, this doesn't stick.