Book Title: The Mark of the Salamander by Justin Newland
Category: Adult Fiction (18 +), 246 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction and Magical Realism
Publisher: The Book Guild
Release date: September 2023
Content Rating: PG-13 +M. Mild sex and cruelty. Mature themes.
Nelan Michaels is a young Flemish man fleeing religious persecution in the Spanish Netherlands. Settling in Mortlake outside London, he studies under Queen Elizabeth’s court astrologer, conjuring a bright future – until he’s wrongly accused of murder. Forced into the life of a fugitive, Nelan hides in London, before he is dramatically pressed into the crew of the Golden Hind. Thrust into a strange new world on board Francis Drake’s vessel, Nelan sails the seas on a voyage to discover discovery itself. Encountering mutiny, ancient tribes and hordes of treasure, Nelan must explore and master his own mystical powers – including the Mark of the Salamander, the mysterious spirit of fire.
THE MARK OF THE SALAMANDER is the first in The Island of Angels series: a two-book saga that tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming of age during the Elizabethan era.
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Meet the Author:
JUSTIN NEWLAND’s novels represent an innovative blend of genres from historical adventure to supernatural thriller and magical realism. His stories explore the themes of war and religion, 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 conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies.
The historical thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), is set in Ming Dynasty China in the shadows of the Great Wall.
The Coronation (Matador, 2019) was another historical adventure and speculates on the genesis of the most important event in the modern world – the Industrial Revolution.
The Abdication (Matador, 2021) is a mystery thriller in which a young woman confronts her faith in a higher purpose and what it means to abdicate that faith.
The Mark of the Salamander (Book Guild, 2023) is the first in a two-book series, The Island of Angels. Set in the Elizabethan era, it’s an epic tale of England’s coming of age.
His work in progress is the second in the series, The Midnight of Eights, the charting of the uncanny coincidences that led to the repulse of the Spanish Armada.
Author, speaker and broadcaster, Justin appears on LitFest panels, 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.
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My latest historical fiction novel, The Mark of the Salamander, has just been published. It’s the first title in a two-book series, The Island of Angels, which tells the epic story and secret history of England’s coming of age during the Elizabethan era.
While The Island of Angels is an intriguing title, this blog explores the question: ‘What is an angel?’ This is definition from the Merriam Webster dictionary:
‘A spiritual being serving as a divine messenger and intermediary and often as a special protector of an individual or nation.’
This suggests that any nation has a spiritual protector or guardian. If so, where would these angels live? In the ground, or in places like the lakes, forests and mountain ranges? Many monasteries, temples and holy places are located on mountain tops and in remote places like deserts in the expectation that the angelic beings would rise up out of the ground and grace its occupants with their presence.
The definition also talks of the spiritual being – the angels – as divine messengers. The angels of a nation are then custodial of the divine intention for that land and its people. The angels’ function then becomes to guide the people towards the fulfilment of that intention.
Then how would the people of a nation know if what they were doing was aligned or natural to that divine intention? Well, if they were, the angels would super-charge what they were doing. For example, they would prompt them to greater exploits, exceptional discoveries, and the creation of finer art. They would urge the people to do things, perceive things, that were above and beyond what the people previously thought possible. Angels add charisma and most importantly, they yield a vision of the future. They add grace and offer healing to old wounds and new possibilities. Their presence would feel like a person had a hose pipe of water gushing into their back.
In 1578, Francis Drake set out from Plymouth with five ships to sail around the world. Until that point in history, England was a small, misty isle on the edge of continental Europe. Through Drake’s efforts, in that single voyage, he hauled England out of the dark ages and into a future in which England would become the hub of a new world of trade & communication. He single-handedly changed England’s self-view. How was this momentous event achieved? Was it with the added assistance of the Angels of the Island?
Where would you look for evidence of angels in the history of a nation? Well, perhaps you’d start with the symbols of the land that have persisted through the ages, their myths and legends, their constitutional elements, like the colour and formation of its flag. In Elizabethan England, the flag was still a red cross on a white background (Scotland had yet to contribute the blue saltire onto the Union Jack).
Then there’s the heraldry of the nation. England’s royal coat of arms features its Medieval chivalric Order of the Garter. Established by King Edward III in 1348, the motto of the Most Noble Order is, ‘Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense,’ which means, ‘Evil be to he who thinks evil (of me).’
This is a huge clue to nature and character of the land of England and its angels. It’s a powerful statement of defiance. The motto says that anything that comes into the land, that is not fitting, or of a lower order than the angels of the land, will get sent back to where it came from. In other words, repulse. In modern terms – return to sender.
5th October 2023
Sir Francis Drake
The Arms of Queen Elizabeth I showing the Order of the Garter