Also by this author: The Genes of Isis
on November 28 2018
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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?
So today I welcome Dr Justin Newland back to my blog. You may remember my book review of The Genes of Isis back in August and how I read something out of my comfort zone and loved it! Well, I was not able to read this in time for his release day, but I could not refuse to have him on the blog!
So some words from the man himself before we go any further.
So the book what is it about?
The Old Dragon’s Head is both historical novel and supernatural thriller.
One theme of the novel is coming of age. Young readers will enjoy the journey of self-discovery, and the learning of commitment. Older readers will enjoy the broadening of the theme into the coming of age of the nation and people of China itself.
With the inexorable rise of modern China, Western and Eastern fiction readers alike will be naturally inquisitive about the legendary notion of China as the Zhongguo – the Middle Kingdom between heaven and the rest of the world – featured in the novel. Readers will be absorbed by the mature themes of the evolving human condition, and the role of human identity and the supernatural in everyday life.
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?
Why did you write the book?
I have long been intrigued by the ancient land of China. I was fascinated by the Chinese people’s overriding belief in the supernatural, something that shot through the whole of their society from Emperor to wood gatherer. There’s the pervasive mystery of the Bagua, the mysterious eight trigrams of the I Ching, the book of divination. There’s the Tao, and its enigmatic adherent, Lao Tzu, riding off on an ox. Then there’s the stoic wisdom of Mencius and Confucius. Into the mix, put the great religious beliefs of Buddhism, and all there colourful and obscure ceremonies. All in all, China still remains an enigma, even unto its own people. And long may it remain so!
The Old Dragon’s Head is not a fiction. It is an actual place. The Great Wall of China is home to a supernatural beast – the Old Dragon or Laolong. And 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 or Laolongtou.
The fortress of Shanhaiguan, which means mountain-sea pass, was built by the Hongwu Emperor in the 1380, to bridge the gap between the Yanshan Mountains and the Bohai Sea.
The novel is not only about physical walls and boundaries; it’s about meta-physical and psychological ones.
Curiously, my inspiration to write the book came after writing a short story, Vallum Hadriana, about another wall, this one much nearer to home – Hadrian’s Wall.
Having written about ancient Egypt in his last novel and now China in this one, I am in awe of how many areas of history Justin has delved into. In addition to knowing about the historical elements, Newland has actually brought them to life with his understanding and story writing! I can’t wait to find out what’s next!
Bolin swooned and propped himself up against the metal railings. He rubbed his temples, hoping it would ease the shooting pains in his head. It didn’t. His vision was as blurred as the mists that rolled off the sea.
“Are you fit for work?” Wen railed at him. That was his new superior.
“Why, yes, Master Wen,” he said, adding an obsequious bow.
“Do you want to fail on your first day?” Wen snapped.
“N-no, of course not,” Bolin stammered. Behind them, one of the donkeys brayed and let out a huge fart, bringing smirks to the lips of the assembled apprentices, all except Bolin. This headache was more than a pain
Wen scowled and said, “This is the most eastern end of the Great Wall of Ten Thousand Li and, in this province, I am its maintainer.” He puffed out his chest and crossed his arms. “This section, in the neck of land between the mountains and the sea, was built twenty years ago. Tomorrow is a special occasion and I want you to return it to its pristine condition.”
The apprentices made approving noises as he went on, “The Great Wall is made of more than stone and packed earth. Woe betide anyone I hear say otherwise! It is host to a living, breathing entity, the Old Dragon Laolong, and we are standing on the Old Dragon’s Head, the Laolongtou. Below us, this end section of the wall protrudes right into the sea. The old dragon is taking a cooling drink. Make sure you pay him the respect he deserves.”
That was Wen, the famous Master Builder. Folk said he breathed fire when raised to anger. Bolin wasn’t sure whether they were referring to Wen or the Laolong
Hope you have enjoyed my post and I have done enough to intrigue to you find out more!