Constructed of stone and packed earth, the Great Wall of 10,000 li protects China’s northern borders from the threat of Mongol incursion. The wall is also home to a supernatural beast: the Old Dragon. The Old Dragon’s Head is the most easterly point of the wall, where it finally meets the sea.
In every era, a Dragon Master is born. Endowed with the powers of Heaven, only he can summon the Old Dragon so long as he possess the dragon pearl.
It’s the year 1400, and neither the Old Dragon, the dragon pearl, nor the Dragon Master, has been seen for twenty years. Bolin, a young man working on the Old Dragon’s Head, suffers visions of ghosts. Folk believe he has yin-yang eyes and other paranormal gifts.When Bolin’s fief lord, the Prince of Yan, rebels against his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor, a bitter war of succession ensues in which the Mongols hold the balance of power. While the victor might win the battle on earth, China’s Dragon Throne can only be earned with a Mandate from Heaven – and the support of the Old Dragon.
Bolin embarks on a journey of self-discovery, mirroring Old China’s endeavour to come of age. When Bolin accepts his destiny as the Dragon Master, Heaven sends a third coming of age – for humanity itself. But are any of them ready for what is rising in the east?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural. He gives author talks and is a regular contributor to BBC Radio Bristol’s Thought for the Day. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.
The Genes of Isis is a tale of love, destruction and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt. A re-telling of the Biblical story of the flood, it reveals the mystery of the genes of Isis – or genesis – of mankind.
The Old Dragon’s Head is a historical fantasy and supernatural thriller set during the Ming Dynasty and played out in the shadows the Great Wall of China. It explores the secret history of the influences that shaped the beginnings of modern times.
Set during the Great Enlightenment, The Coronation reveals the secret history of the Industrial Revolution.
His latest, The Abdication (July, 2021), is a suspense thriller, a journey of destiny, wisdom and self-discovery.
Find Justin online:
Q&A With Author Justin Newland
Below is a fun and informative interview with Justin Newland
Let’s go beyond the bio. Tell us a little more about yourself. What is something most people would not know about you?
I was born three days before end of the end of the year, making me a Capricorn. Look, someone has to be one. We’re a strange hybrid of half-fish, half-goat. I mean, who would want to be one of those? Capricorns don’t tend to get invited to parties because a. The hosts don’t know whether to feed us plankton or tufts of grass and b. We’re boring, practical people, plodders who just work, work, work. You could either end up with a nasty kettle of fish like Al Capone or Howard Shipman or, better still, a person with deep religious/spiritual views such as Martin Luther King or Jesus Christ. I’d like to think I’m on the religious/spiritual Capricorn spectrum.
The Capricorn symbol is a combination of the letters ‘V S’, which stands for ‘Very Serious’. To compensate for this onerous skill, I found it necessary to develop a keen sense of humour.
Your specialty is combining history with fantasy and the supernatural, as you’ve done in previous novels. What inspired you to choose 1400s China for the setting of this book?
The 14th Century was a time of profound change in the history of the world. For example, it saw the end of the feudal system of government, and the start of our modern era with its cult of the individual, the industrial revolution, and propensity for democracy. In 1368, China ejected the Mongols and formed a new dynasty, The Ming, meaning the Bright. So, in 1400, when the novel is set, China was re-finding and re-building itself, and seeking a new identity with which to move forward into modern times. Even so, it was probably the most advanced nation and culture in the world at the time.
I also chose Chinese society to write about because of its deep-seated belief in demons, ghosts, and gods, which played perfectly into my love of the supernatural.
Having previously read The Abdication, I know that the infusion of magical realism or the supernatural into your work really sets your books apart. Were there books you personally read earlier in life that inspired that touch of magic in your writing?
My early loves and influences in literature were mostly existentialists: Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Herman Hesse. Only later did I enjoy fantasy writers like Frank Herbert, and magic realism authors such as Borges and Marques.
I believe that we as human beings are much more influenced and guided by the conscious and semi-conscious aspects of our lives – such as dreams, feelings, knowings, clairvoyance, and even coincidences and serendipitous events – than we would readily admit. And I try to reflect this in my novels first by telling a story based in recognizable reality, such as the historical record, so that when I introduce the fantastical or the supernatural elements, I plant a nagging doubt in the reader’s mind as to whether those elements are part of the historical record on not.I also like to use ESP elements such as dreams, and clairvoyance, as plot devices to create mystery and drive the story.
What is the process you go through when researching a new novel, and what advice would you give to new writers just beginning to research historical fiction?
I like to find one book, usually a history book, but it may be an autobiography, that narrates the history of the period that I want to write about. I also want to know not just what happened, but the detail of the setting in which it happened. I want to know what clothes the people wore, what they were made of, what their hygiene was like (if they had any), what their shoes were made of, and what they carried around in their pockets (if they had any pockets at that time). Comment from Bonnie: I could see the evidence of this research while reading The Old Dragon’s Head, as every detail about the characters is so well described. That level of attention really pulls the reader into the story.
My advice to a new author would be – if possible – to write about a period that you have already researched in your life, or a culture that have visited say on holiday, or a period of history that has always fascinated you (preferably all three).
You have independently published several books. What advice do you have for new authors just starting the Independent/self-publishing process?
Choose you self-publisher carefully. Ask around to find a good one. Join Facebook or LinkedIn groups for authors, and self-published authors, and go on their forums to ask those questions. If you are going to spend your own money publishing your books, then make sure you get your money’s worth. And whatever you do, don’t skimp on getting your books copy-edited and proofread. Comment from Bonnie: I agree. I can’t stress enough how important the editing is. Some reviewers will downgrade your book for just one typo.
Thanks so much, Mr. Newland, for providing such great answers to my questions.
My pleasure, Bonnie. Thanks for asking such searching questions.
The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland is a meticulously researched historical novel with a heavy dash of magical realism. It set in China, 1400, in the fairly early years of the Ming Dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644. The reader is instantly swept into this time and place, and we meet a people still struggling to begin a new era. The characters are about as well developed as I’ve ever seen in a historical novel, and their adventures will keep the reader mesmerized. The character of Luli is especially fascinating to me because she is a strong woman in a very difficult time. There are many mysteries in this novel, but the secrets surrounding two of the characters, Bolin and Feng, are especially intriguing. This mystical adventure is rich in Chinese folklore, ancient myths and religious practices, and early 1400s Chinese culture. The Great Wall of China is almost a character itself, holding many secrets and even magic in this story.
The Old Dragon’s Head is well researched and expertly written. Fans of ancient myths, Chinese history, and coming of age adventures will enjoy this book.
I received a free copy of this book via Zooloo’s Book Tours. My review is voluntary and my opinions are my own.