What they say:
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?
What I say:
Although outside my usual genres I was intrigued by both the blurb and the front cover of this book. I was so thrilled to find that stepping out of my comfort zone brought me into contact with a book that was a delight from start to finish. It was clear from the outset that Justin Newland has thoroughly researched this era of Chinese history, and has captured within his writing the atmosphere of the setting. I really felt that I had been whisked back in time to the location at the Eastern end of the Great Wall of China.
This is a book of historical fantasy, but in terms of the fantasy, it is subtle, and firmly rooted in cultural beliefs and superstitions within the time period covered in the book, and as someone who does not normally read fantasy, this was perfect for me. I thought that the extremely reluctant protagonist Bolin was such a charming and multi-dimensional character. His reluctance to accept his destiny was completely endearing. I also found the side characters entertaining too. There were lots of heroes and villains within this gripping tale.
It is rare for me to feel comprehensively transported to a moment in time, in another country, with different cultures and customs, but this book did exactly that, which is testament to the research done by Justin Newland, and his writing style which encapsulated this atmospheric and enchanting story. I have not read his previous novel, but I shall be making a point of doing so.
Many thanks to Kelly at Love Books Tours, and the author, Justin Newland for my copy of The Old Dragon’s Head, which I received in exchange for an honest review and participation in the blog tour. Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!
The book is available to purchase at the following link:
About the author:
After a long career in I.T., Justin’s love of literature finally seduced him and, in 2006, he found his way to the creative keyboard to write his first novel.
Justin writes secret histories in which historical events and people are guided and motivated by numinous and supernatural forces.
His debut novel, The Genes of Isis, is a tale of love, destruction, and ephemeral power set under the skies of Ancient Egypt, and which tells the secret history of the human race, Homo Sapiens Sapiens.
His second is The Old Dragon’s Head, 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 our times.
He is currently working on a novel set in East Prussia during the Enlightenment in the 18th Century which reveals the secret history of perhaps the single most important event of the modern world – The Industrial Revolution.
Justin does books signings and gives author talks in libraries in South West England. He has appeared at many Literary Festivals, including Bristol, Weston-super-mare and Exeter. He regularly gives interviews on BBC local radio and local FM radio stations.