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?
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 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.
Thank you, Justin Newland and Zooloo’s Book Tours.
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.
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.