The Mark of the Salamander
By Justin Newland
By Justin Newland
Publication Date: 28th September 2023
Publisher: The Book Guild
Page Length: 256 Pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
That night, Nelan had both light from the candles and some valuable space. With no room in the cramped cells, some prisoners slept in the wardens’ shed, and the new arrivals slept in the freezing yard. Marshalsea was a hard taskmaster; many fell by the wayside who could not afford the garnish. Squeezed into the corridor outside the infirmary, he got out his char cloth, iron, and flint, and lit the candle. Again, he read the two papers Dee had given him, but his mind prodded him about shoes. Not those in the cordwainers’ and cobblers’ shops, but the ones that never wore out. Dee had given him a clue in the Geneva Bible. Recalling the lines from the Book of Job, Nelan spoke Chapter 10, Verse 1 out loud:
My soul is cut off though I live.
I will… speak in the bitterness of my soul.
What did that mean? What were the connections between cutting off and living, and bitterness and the soul? And what had they to do with the shoes that didn’t wear out? Dr Dee had said it was a clue, so Nelan resolved to muse on the biblical passage until it revealed its inner meaning. He recalled the fear he’d felt on waking during his first night in Marshalsea, and then he wondered about sweetness and bitterness. Was the soul averse to certain flavours? Perhaps it was more sensitive to some emotions than to others.
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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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