Good morning all!
I have a great book to review for you today, The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland…
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 possesses 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?
Official blurb for The Old Dragon’s Head by Goodreads
I have worked with Justin Newland before when I was on a blog tour for his book The Genes of Isis. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was really happy to see a review request for his newest book, The Old Dragon’s Head.
In a world mixed with history, mythology, and fantasy, The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland is a wondrous story about the borders of the ancient earth.
I thought the structure was brilliant as there was enough tension leading up to specific events but the story didn’t drag at the same time. This book, like all great adventure novels, has the dilemma, the challenge, and the climactic end. I believe it was wise for it to be split up in strategic sections as it made the story flow and the suspense to build, with plenty of action along the way of course!
The third person narrative gave a birds-eye-view perspective on the characters, making the story reliable instead of biased. I enjoyed the protagonist, Bolin, who embodied the ‘inner strength’ characteristic and had to act on what fate had in store for him.
History meets magic, culture meets supernatural. The plot was easy to follow and I didn’t feel as if I had to really concentrate too hard (I don’t like books which rely on me literally making notes as I go along to understand the plot) and I really dived in to Newland’s world with ease!
The imagery was also a point I wanted to make; the level of detail cocooning the novel really brought everything together. Newland has certainly done his homework with the traditions and cultures explored in his novel. But of course, he adds a fantastical twist with visions of the dead, the boundaries between this life and the next, and always has a poignant philosophical message attached to his stories, especially this one.
The supernatural elements ironically bring this story to life. I am a huge fan of the supernatural genre, and I admire Newland’s language at the way he describes the eerie spectres which are slipped into the narrative effortlessly.
As far as genres go, this one slides into quite a few. The historical narrative paves the way for Newland to re-write his own historical version of events whilst in-keeping with the fantasy genre. The Old Dragon’s Head also deals with morality and the ethics of human nature- who are we? What is our purpose? Whilst at the same time drawing upon ancient traditions and neatly stitching together the story with all these different elements.
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!
I would recommend this story who enjoys historical fiction with a twist. I would also say that this book is perfect for anyone who enjoys books based long ago where the supernatural can come alive once again.
Let your imagination run wild with the idea of dragons, myth, legend, superstition, ghosts, ancestry, and China.
Where to get a copy:
CLICK HERE for the author’s web page
I hope you enjoyed this review!
Happy reading! Lx
Thank you Justin for my copy! I can’t wait to see what’s next in store!