The Old Dragon’s Head
By Justin Newland
Rated: 4 Stars ****
Today I have the pleasure of closing the blog tour for Love Books Tours with my review for the book The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland. There have been reviews and extracts that can be found online, including the review I am presenting to you today. It was with honour that I received a signed copy of the book and accompanying bookmark. Please note, my review is impartial.
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.
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?
Firstly I love the quotes that are throughout the book at the top of the chapters. I have in general come to like books that have quotes. I think it is the way they are so intelligently used. They are not just used because they sound good, they really fit the story and Justin Newland has also managed to accomplish this well.
This is not just any fantasy book, this is a fantasy with history, murder, mystery, legend, myth and of course the supernatural. There are villains and heroes and action and adventure. All of this works well together to create a fascinating story. It is fascinating to be transported to Chinese culture in this way.
Bolin (main character) and we meet him with Wen who is the maintainer of the most eastern end of the Great Wall of Ten Thousand Li, a Provence in China. It is home to the old Dragon Laolong and they are standing on the Dragon’s Head – the Laolongtou. The wall also belongs to the military, the Monks and the Great Wall Mummers and Wen, especially is fiercely protective of it. I became quickly interested in the wall and where this book was heading. There’s a quest to follow to find out what happened to the Dragon Master and a pearl and action along the way. I liked meeting the variety of characters within this book and getting to know their roles and desires. I liked that the book concluded well.
I wasn’t so sure at first how much potential this book had to be a good one, but once a few pages in, it really is quite some story and I found myself immersed in the world created by Justin Newland. I was impressed by the fact there is a grounding to this world he has crafted, perhaps because the Wall of China is so familiar, but also the way the characters are written. If you are looking for something new within the fantasy world I definitely say try this one out. Even if you aren’t so sure about fantasy, try the book out because this crosses genres and does it very well. I think this is a fantasy author who is worth reading and watching to see what his next creation will be. I felt Justin Newland had done his research and the book feels quite original for this genre.
Below are links to the author’s website and Facebook page.