Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Blog Tour: The Coronation



Secret History Thriller, Historical Fantasy, Supernatural Thriller, Speculative Fiction.

Date Published: 28/01/2019

Publisher: Matador

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It is 1761. Prussia is at war with Russia and Austria.

As the Russian army occupies East Prussia, King Frederick the Great and his men fight hard to win back their homeland.

In Ludwigshain, a Junker estate in East Prussia, Countess Marion von Adler celebrates an exceptional harvest. But it is requisitioned by Russian troops. When Marion tries to stop them, a Russian captain strikes her. His lieutenant, Ian Fermor, defends Marion’s honour and is stabbed for his insubordination. Abandoned by the Russians, Fermor becomes a divisive figure on the estate.

Close to death, Fermor dreams of the Adler, a numinous eagle entity, whose territory extends across the lands of Northern Europe and which is mysteriously connected to the Enlightenment. What happens next will change of the course of human history…

Guest Post about the Historical Aspects of The Coronation

The Coronation is set in East Prussia in the 1760s. The capital of East Prussia was Konigsberg (now Kaliningrad). It was home to the philosopher Immanuel Kant.

Prussia was ruled by King Frederick the Great.

Bordering the Baltic Sea, the land of East Prussia is significant because of the presence of amber – a semi-precious yellow fossilized tree resin – along its Samland Peninsula – that’s the section on the map, west of Konigsberg, that resembles the snout of a whale. Nearly all of the world’s amber is mined there. There was a famous Amber Road between Konigsberg, down through the Moravian Gate to Venice and beyond.

In the early 1700s, King Frederick’s father made a peace offering to Tsar Peter the Great of Russia – a room made completely from amber. The Tsar housed the famous Amber Room in The Catherine Palace near St. Petersburg, Russia. To introduce this into the plot, I imagined that King Frederick the Great sought to emulate his father by commissioning an own amber room of his own. To create conflict in the novel, I imagined that the amber mines were flooded and that the pumps used to extract the water needed repairing.

In the 1760s, water was pumped out of underground shafts and mines by a rudimentary and inefficient steam engine, such as the one invented by the Devon preacher Thomas Newcomen. His engines were used to pump the water out of the tin mines in Cornwall. 

Prussia was at war in the 1760s. This was partly a religious conflict between Lutheran Prussia against Catholic Austria and Russia, a continuation of the wars caused by the Reformation, and partly a dispute over the territory of Silesia. This was the European theatre of what we know today as the Seven Years’ War, which is generally regarded as the first truly global conflict, pitting the might of England against France and Spain. The English and French fought out their own battles during this period, mostly in North America and India. King Frederick of Prussia relied on Protestant England to finance his war. The Seven Years’ War provided an excellent source of conflict in the novel.

In the novel, I wanted to explore the origins of the Industrial Revolution. In the 1760s there were no factories, no overpopulation, no mass migration, no giant cities, and no mass industry such as we know today. There was still a community amongst the people, a shared belief in a greater power, and in an Arcadian pact with the land, expressed through fertility rites, harvest festivals and so on.

James Watt changed all that. He didn’t invent the steam engine. What he did was to improve the efficiency of Thomas Newcomen’s engine. It made all the difference and, from that one moment, that one discovery,  events unfolded into the industrial society we have inherited. This interest in mechanisation, in engines, and in machines in general, has led humanity down a strange, unique path.

At no time in history before now has a society or civilisation had such a dependence on machines and technology. But is that fascination healthy? Is it normal? Is technology a substitute for something else? Why has it arisen in the human psyche? These are the questions I wanted to explore in The Coronation.

The 18th Century was the birthplace for many sciences including biology and chemistry, as well as overseeing huge advances in medical science and a concomitant understanding of the human anatomy and physiology. We look back on those times and called them the Great Enlightenment, not only because of enlightened despots such as King Frederick the Great but also because of how advances in the sciences purged some of the European psyche of inveterate superstition.

Perhaps the essential symbol for the idea of human enlightenment is the eagle because it represents the ability of the mind and the mental faculty to fly high and see events from afar.

So, what happened to the Great Enlightenment? Are we now fully enlightened, as we live and breathe 21st Century air? If we are, then shouldn’t we be living in a state of peaceful and harmonious co-existence with our neighbours, whether they be local, or national or international? Shouldn’t we be living in a time of no crime, no disease, and no famine?

With this in mind, consider this quote that I used at the beginning of the novel. It’s from Immanuel Kant from a book he wrote in 1784.

“Sapere Aude! Dare to be wise!

Have the courage to use your own understanding

– that is the motto of the Enlightenment.”

Who dares to be wise today? Who has the courage to forego other people’s opinions, and forge an understanding of the truth? Who today dares to be enlightened? Do you? Or perhaps someone will invent an iPhone that’ll obviate the need.  

Justin Newland

8th November 2022



 About the Author

Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers – that’s history with a supernatural twist. His historical novels feature known events and real people from the past, which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural.

His novels speculate on the human condition and explore the fundamental questions of our existence. As a species, as Homo sapiens sapiens – that’s man the twice-wise – how are we doing so far? Where is mankind’s spiritual home? What does it look or feel like? Would we recognise it if we saw it?

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 supernatural thriller, The Old Dragon’s Head (Matador, 2018), set in Ming Dynasty China.

His third novel, The Coronation (Matador, 2019), speculates on the genesis of the most important event of 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 stories add a touch of the supernatural to history and deal with the themes of war, religion, evolution and the human’s place in the universe.

He was born three days before the end of 1953 and lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.

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