Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Book Tour + #Giveaway: The Mark of the Salamander by Justin Newland @JustinNewland53 @RABTBookTours


The Island of Angels Series, Book 1

Historical Fiction

Date Published: 09-28-2024

Publisher: The Book Guild




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.

I wanted to write a novel telling the extraordinary tale of Sir Francis Drake’s circumnavigation. In researching the voyage, I discovered that one of his crew was a Flemish immigrant by the name of Little Nele aka Little Nelan.

So, I wondered how did a man from Northern France end up on the Golden Hind? That intriguing question inspired me to write the novel, The Mark of the Salamander, 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. The second title is The Midnight of Eights and is out in October 2024.

What drove Little Nelan to leave his homeland and flee to England? I conjectured that he did so in 1568. Why that year? What were the forces at play in Europe that would force a family to emigrate to England?

Well, religion for one thing, and politics for another.

Here’s a snapshot of the historical backstory.

In the late 15th Century, the stability of European statecraft was changed irrevocably by the introduction of new technology – in the shape of the printing press. Johannes Gutenberg in Strasbourg was the first to print copies of the Holy Bible (see the image).

In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer, was sponsored by Spain to travel west across the Atlantic in search of the East Indies and led the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe. For the Europeans, this single event expanded the size of the world, and the size of their psyche. The world was now their oyster.

In 1522, Martin Luther produced the first version of the New Testament in the vernacular – in this case, in German. It meant that you didn’t need to be able read Greek, Latin or Hebrew to read the Bible, making it more available to the populace than ever before.

In the 1530’s King Henry VIII of England split from Rome and joined the other Northern European nations participating, like the Calvinists in the Netherlands, in their own religious revolution.

The Protestant Reformation had truly arrived; and the stresses and pressures that it posed eventually led to the break-up of the imperial domains of the Holy Roman Empire, which up until that point had been the anchor-point of the era.

In 1556, Emperor Charles V split the imperial domains of the Habsburg dynasty – namely the Austrian – inherited by his brother, Ferdinand – and the Spanish – inherited by his son, Philip II of Spain. One of the territories inherited by King Philip was the seventeen provinces of the Netherlands.

In the 1560’s, I imagined that Nelan’s family moved from Sangatte near Calais in Picardy to the Dutch town of Leiden.

Inevitably, the rise of the Protestant religion in opposition to Roman Catholicism resulted in open conflict. In 1567, in the Netherlands, the Calvinists incited a rebellion against the Spanish invaders. To oppose it, King Philip sent the Duke of Alba at the head an army of occupation. When he got there, he instituted the Council of Troubles (see the image), a special tribunal to punish the ringleaders. His reign of terror condemned thousands to death.

The Dutch renamed it the Council of Blood.

Nelan’s (fictional) mother, Agnes, was one of the hundreds of innocent men, women and children randomly chosen to suffer execution by the Spanish.

On that day in September 1567 in the town square in Leiden, when the fires of the inquisition burned Agnes to death, Nelan’s father knew it was time to flee. He was probably not alone. Soon after, the family fled to Queen Elizabeth’s England, where European Protestants were welcome with open arms.

These were some of the political and religious influences that drove Little Nelan and his father across the Narrow Seas to the safety of England.

How he ended up on The Golden Hind is another story.

You can read about it in The Mark of the Salamander.

Justin Newland

3rd December 2023

The Printing Press of Johannes Gutenberg, Strasbourg 1440’s

The Council of Troubles, 1567.

About the Author

JUSTIN NEWLAND’s novels represent an innovative blend of genres from historical adventure to supernatural thriller and magical realism.

Undeterred by the award of a Doctorate in Mathematics from Imperial College, London, he conceived his debut novel, The Genes of Isis (ISBN 9781789014860, Matador, 2018), an epic fantasy set under Ancient Egyptian skies.

His second book is a historical thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (ISBN 9781789015829, Matador, 2018), and is set in Ming Dynasty China in the shadows of the Great Wall.

His third, The Coronation (ISBN 9781838591885, Matador, 2019), is another historical adventure and speculates on the genesis of the most important event in the modern world – the Industrial Revolution.

The Abdication (ISBN 9781800463950, 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.

His latest is The Mark of the Salamander (ISBN 9781915853271, Book Guild, 2023) and is the first in a two-book series, The Island of Angels. Set in the Elizabethan era, it tells the epic tale of England’s coming of age.

The second in the series, The Midnight of Eights, charts of the uncanny coincidences that culminated in the repulse of the Spanish Armada and is due to be published later this year.

Author, speaker and broadcaster, Justin appears on LitFest panels, gives talks to historical associations and libraries and enjoys giving radio interviews.

He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

Contact Links



Twitter: @JustinNewland53


Pinterest: @jnewland0711


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Justin said...

Thanks for hosting this stop on the RA Boot Tour of my novel. Always good to hang out with an Avid Reader.

Daniel M said...

looks like a fun one