Monday, December 6, 2021

The Old Dragon's Head by Justin Newland - Book Tour

Book Blurb

|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?

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 After the prince disappeared into his quarters, everyone hauled themselves off the ground, brushed the dirt and leaves from mud-stained robes. Throughout the rest of the day, Bolin and Cui helped the fortress troops find billets for the arriving prince’s army. Bolin didn’t know what to think about them. Yes, they were conquering heroes, but they were rebels too, fighting against kith and kin. 

As dusk fell and the last remnants of the cavalry units trudged over the drawbridge, Bolin tripped over a lip in the pavement, just managing to keep his balance. If that wasn’t a warning to tread with more care in his life, what was? He couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that he was at odds with himself and the world.

The ghost of an army general had struck terror in him and sowed panic amongst the prince’s battle-hardened warriors. In a state of war, how could he be at peace with the Tao? The fabric of the world was out of joint, like a clown becoming an Emperor, or an Emperor becoming a clown.

Tonight was the turn of the tide, the eve of the New Year, the eve of the new – the dark – moon. When the darkness of yin was full, the light-giving yang returned and the Heavenly cycle recommenced. On the crest of a propitious wave, he resolved to make a new start. 

When dusk fell, Bolin came off duty and went straight to meet Cui in the throng gathering in the Bell and Drum Square. Scores of lictors hurried around its perimeter lighting the torches and placing them back on their cradles. A small battalion of men was hauling planks of wood, branches and anything flammable into the centre of the square for the bonfire.

The Shanhai villagers and off-duty soldiers were swelled by officials including the magistrate, constables, commissioners, mandarins and other officials from the Yamen, as well as the tailor, carpenter and silk merchant, blacksmith and rice merchant. Peddlers touting sausages, duck and chicken vied with others selling tea, wine and rice vodka under the shadows of the Bell and Drum Tower. The traditional red lanterns swayed in the breeze blowing off the Bohai Sea. The animated crowd, the rich smell of dumplings and the boisterous activities of a troupe of acrobats and stilt walkers drew his attention away from past anxieties to present joys.

Bolin stood as near as he could to the Zhendong Gate, a formidable tower with walls thirty paces thick and crowned by another tower with two elevations. Beneath it ran an arched tunnel, with a drawbridge and moat at the outer end and heavy wooden gates at the inner end, which was where Bolin was stood. Like the rest of the crowd, he wanted to be the first to see the procession of acrobats, singers, dancers and musicians gathering at the far, moat end of the tunnel. 

While they waited, folk chatted amongst themselves, exchanging gifts, greetings and well wishes. Lovers embraced. Mothers fussed over their sons and fathers hoisted their young daughters onto their shoulders.

A procession of monks entered the tunnel to clear away debris and litter. Behind a donkey cart, a monk carrying a bag of sackcloth hurried along, head bowed and a burning torch in his hand, examining the path with furious intent. Jin was the assistant to the Abbot of the Temple of the Eight Immortals. From previous years, Bolin knew what Jin was looking for and called out, “Did you find any yet?”

“Indeed I have, Master Bolin, indeed I have,” Jin looked up and nodded. His round moon face shone with perspiration.

“Show me?” Bolin asked.

Jin obliged by plunging his hand into the sack and held out his palm, saying, “This is the biggest piece. I reckon it must have sheared off a passing cart.”

As his head swirled and his temples pounded, Bolin let out a long, slow groan. He gazed at the piece of metal and swooned. He would have fallen over if Cui hadn’t propped him up.

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.


His Books
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.

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