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Book Extract; The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland.

Originally posted on Chicks, Rogues and Scandals on 11 December 2021.

The Old Dragon’s Head by Justin Newland.

Genre Historical Fiction, Fantasy

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?

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… Luli’s Po Office was across the road from his house on Fuyuan Street. Healer, seer and geomancer, her intercession on the Laolongtou, when she had prevented them from harming the gulls, reminded him of just how high her reputation was in these parts.

He found himself walking across Fuyuan Street. What was he doing? Was he really going to seek her help? A magpie hopped along her threshold and then flew off, pursued by his mate. A pair of black and white birds: that was a good sign. He fingered his yin-yang coin charm; the black side with a white dot in the middle and a white side with a black dot in the middle. Yin and yang. The Tao had spoken to him. The magpies were a good omen: he was on the right path.

Luli opened the door, bowed and showed him in. The last time he’d entered her Po Office was when, as a youngster, he had played with Ru. Despite that, the familiar fresh smell of camphor wood wafted over him. Boxes and scrolls in one corner, crates in another, the shop was more or less as he remembered it. The pawned items were neatly labelled in small pigeonholes towards the back of the store. The room emanated a mysterious serenity, a sense of everything in its place and a place for everything. Bolin liked that. In a world of tumult and upheaval, such order, any order, was a welcome restraint.

“Master Bolin,” Luli said, wearing a long-sleeved turquoise gown. “You’ve come. What can I do for you?”

Was she was expecting him? She had the foresight of yin-yang eyes, so perhaps she was. “Please, I need your help,” he muttered.

“Go on,” Luli replied.

“I’m frightened, Luli. It started with headaches, then strange dreams. Now I’m seeing and hearing strange things,” he admitted. There, he already felt better.

“What kind of things?”

“Dream visions, terrible things, they are so real, I wake up in a cold sweat. And there’s a hand clasped around my throat. I hear a man’s voice.”

“What does he say?”

“Phrases like ‘release me’ and ‘help me.’ I was convinced there was a demon inside me. Dong tried to exorcise it, but when it didn’t work, he told me I wasn’t possessed.”

“Did he?” Luli said, pacing the floor like a tigress. “I think I know what is happening to you.”

“You do? What is it? Tell me,” he blurted out.

“Can you show me your birthmark?” Luli asked.

“What? Why? I don’t understand.”

“You know I am the custodian of gifts and bequests left by my deceased customers – the soul donors. Some leave letters for their soul receiver. I’ve an inkling one of them is for you.”

“What’s that to do with my birthmark?” he asked, unmasking his exasperation.

“Please,” she replied. “Bear with me.”

“All right, it’s here,” he said, standing and lifting the lower part of his robe. “There, that squidgy mark above my right ankle.”

“Hah! See! It looks like a reptile; a salamander, possibly a dragon. Let me see if I have a match to it,” Luli said, searching the rows of boxes.


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.

Follow him at:
Website :

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