Friday, May 26, 2023

Adult Historical Fantasy Review: The Old Dragon's Head by Justin Newland

Today, I have an adult historical fantasy in our book review spotlight.  Check out The Old Dragon's Head, learn about author Justin Newland, read my thoughts on the book and enter for a chance to win a prize in the book tour giveaway at the end of this post.

​Book Title:  The Old Dragon's Head by Justin Newland
Category:  Adult Fiction (18 +),  257 pages
GenreHistorical Fantasy, Supernatural Thriller 
Publisher:  Troubador Publishing Ltd.
Release date:  November 2018
Content Rating: PG-13 +M. Mild sex and cruelty. Mature themes.

Many of our posts contain affiliate links.
Should you purchase an item via our links--we may receive slight compensation from an
affiliate partner.  

About the Book

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?
My Review

The author creates quite an adventure for readers. Newland blends Chinese history, culture, fantasy, and a supernatural element with surprises with a uniquely built coming-of-age tale. With a well-developed plot, a well-formed historical setting, and strong characters, The Old Dragon's Head gives readers much to consider as the good vs. evil adventure plays out in the perfect form.


Detailed settings, well-developed characters, and scenes transport readers to another time and place. It took a bit for me to settle into the author's writing style and storyline--and I had to focus on the text and details he provided to connect to the characters. The author's settings, scenes, and characters are very detailed and become very easy for readers to visualize as the story develops. This detail does require spending some time as the world, and the characters take shape and the action grows. If you are looking for a light, supernatural fantasy--this is not that book. However, if you enjoy Chinese history, cultural traditions, a thought-provoking fantasy world, and character growth and development, this novel is terrific for historical fiction fans and supernatural fantasy adventures alike.  

Would I recommend The Old Dragon's Head by Justin Newland? The novel does address adult themes and holds some violent scenes. The book's writing style and content shift it toward adult readers rather than teen/young adults. If you enjoy a more profound fantasy with culturally rich historical context and solid characters and scenes, this is a unique historical fantasy for your reading list. While it isn't a light read, the elements of the novel grow and combine to give readers a well-crafted adventure from beginning to end. This novel is the first book I have read by this author, but I would definitely read other books from him in the future.


Buy the Book

Meet the Author

JUSTIN NEWLAND’s novels represent an innovative blend of genres from historical fiction and crime, to supernatural thrillers and mystery. His stories deal with the themes of war, religion, and evolution and speculate on the human’s spiritual place in the universe.

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 historical fantasy, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), set in Ming Dynasty China in the shadows of the Great Wall.

His next historical fantasy, The Coronation (Matador, 2019), speculates on the genesis of the most important event in 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 work in progress is a two-book series, The Island of Angels, set in Elizabethan England, and is an epic tale of England’s coming of age. The first novel, The Mark of the Salamander, travels with Sir Francis Drake across the wide open seas of discovery from 1577-1580 and is due to be published in September 2023. The second, The Midnight of Eights, culminates in the repulse of the Spanish Armada in 1588.

He regularly gives talks to historical associations and libraries and enjoys giving radio interviews and making podcasts. Born three days before the end of 1953, he lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

connect with the author:  

Enter the Giveaway

THE OLD DRAGON HEAD Book Tour Giveaway

1 comment:

  1. Hi Angela, thanks for your review of my old China novel.
    It's meant to have a wide appeal, with adventure and entertainment, rich historical detail, and some thought-provoking stuff too.
    Glad you picked up on these threads.