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The Old Dragon's Head - Blog Tour and Book Excerpt

Book Title: The Old Dragon’s Head

Author: Justin Newland

Publication Date: 28th November 2018

Publisher: Troubador Publishing Ltd.

Page Length: 257 pages

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural Thriller, Speculative Fiction


The Great Wall of China may be constructed of stone and packed earth, but it is home to a supernatural beast – the Old Dragon. Both wall and dragon protect China’s northern borders from Mongol incursion. Just beyond the fortress of Shanhaiguan, the far eastern end of the wall protrudes into the Bohai Sea – that’s the Old Dragon’s Head.

Bolin, a young man working on the Old Dragon’s Head, suffers visions of ghosts. The local seer suspects that he has yin-yang eyes and other supernatural gifts. Bolin’s fief lord, the Prince of Yan, rebels against his nephew, the Jianwen Emperor. In the bitter war of succession, 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.

In every era, a man endowed with the powers of heaven – the Dragon Master – is born. Only he can summon the Old Dragon, providing he possesses the dragon pearl. It’s the year 1402, and neither the Old Dragon, the dragon pearl, nor the Dragon Master, has been seen for twenty years.

Bolin’s journey of self-discovery is mirrored by that of old China, as both 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?

Book Excerpt:

The rising sun shone on the prince’s magnificent black stallion. With a regal wave, he acknowledged the rousing welcome echoing along the battlements. Standing near to the prince, an equerry held the reins of a riderless horse, its armour bedecked in the red and gold livery of a commanding officer. That must be the dead general’s.

Bolin could smell the sweat of the two horses and see their mud-caked hooves. But his headache returned, accompanied by an incessant ringing in his ears. An eerie feeling crept over him like an early morning mist over the moors.

The prince’s steed seemed unnerved as well, because it pawed the ground, kicking up spurts of the damp earth, which agitated the riderless horse. The prince hauled on his reins, but it resisted, snorting loudly.

The riderless mount bucked its head, throwing off the dead general’s armour, which clattered onto the unyielding earth. The equerry patted him on the back while pulling on its tether. Instead of calming the beast, its nostrils flared and its eyes opened wide as if in terror.

Amidst cries of alarm, all Bolin could hear was heavy thrumming against his temples. The air in front of him seemed cloudy, full of swirling strands of ch’i. The ch’i currents whirled around the cavalry, who seemed unaware of its invisible presence. Three paces in front of the prince’s horse, an ethereal figure emerged from the spectral mists. Bolin inhaled sharply. Who or what is that?

The spectral figure menaced the prince’s horse, which neighed and kicked its hooves wildly. Straining every sinew, the prince hung on to his reins for dear life.

Bolin noticed thick crimson streaks running like the tracks of a wagon wheel across the man’s chest. A dried stream of blood that had flowed from a missing ear now caked the warrior’s neck and shoulder. In his hand, the man clutched a tattered, blood-speckled parchment. The spectral figure was wearing silk of gold and red – a general’s uniform.

The ghostly figure struck fear into the dead general’s horse, which reared up, snorting. Unable to handle it, the equerry let go of the reins, slipped and fell. The horse’s whirling hooves crashed on his head, splitting it like an egg, splattering brains and gore over the prince’s silken uniform.

The world stopped. The prince stared at the blood on his damask tunic. The column held its collective breath. A pall of silence descended on the ramparts, the initial playful welcoming atmosphere suffocated by a moment of horror. In that hiatus, Bolin seemed the only one still awake and aware. He could see what was happening. Why couldn’t they? In that suspended moment, he felt as if some demon, some errant spirit, occupied his being, as if – he was possessed. The weird, eerie feeling passed almost as quickly as it had come, releasing his voice to shout as loud as he could, “A ghost! There! Look!”

He stabbed his finger at the spectre.

His words broke the spell that shackled the world. Fright and loathing replaced the cheers from the battlements and all mayhem broke loose. Horses reared, throwing riders onto the ground. Soldiers rushed around like frantic geese, spreading chaos. The dead general’s horse ran off by the side of the moat. Riders from the column gave chase. Commotion surrounded the prince, who clung to the reins for dear life. A military physician ran across the drawbridge to care for the injured.

Cui’s cries of alarm rent the air. “Who? What are you talking about?” The old soldier yelled.

“It’s General Shimei. Can’t you—?”

“I don’t see anything,” Cui interrupted him. “Besides, I told you that he’s dead!”

“I know. It’s a ghost. He’s there!” Bolin felt like his face was about to explode with rage.

A voice of authority calmed the dispute. “I see him. Leave this to me.” It was Dong, the Abbot of the local temple. In moments, the Taoist monks struck up a clamour on their drums and cymbals, unnerving the general’s ghost. As Dong led them towards the spectre, it shimmered around the edges, lost its human form and gradually melted back into the clouds of ch’i like a man sucked into quicksand.

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Author Bio:

Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His historical novels feature known events and real people from the past, which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural.

His novels speculate on the human condition and explore the fundamental questions of our existence. As a species, as Homo sapiens sapiens – that’s man the twice-wise – how are we doing so far? Where is mankind’s spiritual home? What does it look or feel like? Would we recognise it if we saw it?

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he found his way to the creative keyboard and conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies.

Next came the supernatural thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), set in Ming Dynasty China.

His third novel, The Coronation (Matador, 2019), speculates on the genesis of the most important event of the modern world – the Industrial Revolution.

His fourth, The Abdication (Matador, 2021), is a supernatural thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith in a higher purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.

His stories add a touch of the supernatural to history and deal with the themes of war, religion, evolution and the human’s place in the universe.

He was born three days before the end of 1953 and lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @drjustinnewland

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