I have always had an interest in world history, but while I enjoy researching, I prefer to write in a style that conveys people, rather than cold facts. As a result, some suppositions about the personalities of the players or specifics of a situation have to be made, casting the work as historical fiction.
“Crouching Dragon” appealed to me as a project because of the myth that lay in front of the protagonist, Zhuge Liang. I should state that Zhuge is better known nowadays by his other Taoist name, “Sleeping Dragon”, but I decided to go for the lesser-known name for the purposes of saying “This is not just an alternate translation or compilation of the (Romance of the) Three Kingdoms [ROTK] tales about Zhuge Liang, this is an attempt at a more historically-grounded account of his career based on research”.
To a fan of the ROTK mythos, this novel will hold few story surprises. To someone that has done some delving into the history surrounding the mythos, the book will hold even fewer surprises - except, perhaps, for why the Southern Campaign against the “barbarian uprising” is covered in the way that it is, or why Zhuge Liang is watching the Battle of Bowang from a nearby hill. The intent was to present a complete story that Zhuge Liang is continually relevant to. At some points, “spiritual relevance” was ample: at other times there were holes to fill, since the historical material is comprised of patchy and subjective accounts. The appendix at the rear of the novel does go part-way to addressing this in addition to providing a basic name pronunciation guide & place/people listing.
Within my novel (including the free sample), references are made in dialogue to events such as “Sun Jian finding the Imperial Seal”, “Yuan Shu, Tao Qian and Gongsun Zan being allied during the Yuan clan feud” and “Taishi Ci assisting/assisted by Liu Bei”. Here is one of the themes of my work: I did not wish to portray Zhuge Liang as all-knowing, and his understanding of events is based on what was likely to be known then, not now. His words will be at times biased, simplified or out-and-out wrong, sometimes with conscious awareness (in some cases, he panders to his audience with careful presentation or deliberately uses a specific viewpoint to win an argument) and at other times due to the source of the information being impartial or incomplete. Such is history, else we would know exactly what happened in that time (and, indeed, in all times) and not have to do so much guessing!
Who he is will at times dictate his actions: while I only allude to it in the novel, this is a man whose family was chased out of their home province by wars between Cao Cao and his enemies, and that affected him. His internal relationship with Cao Cao is as important as the obvious ones he has with Liu Bei, Yueying, Sun Quan, etc. as it defines him.
Regardless of all that I have said, I do not expect to please everyone, and hence have not tried to. I have, instead, tried to tell a story as best as I can. I hope that I did well, but that is, of course, down to you the reader to decide for yourself.
One last thing: this now shares scenes and events with ‘Eastern Wu: Realm of the Sun Clan’, although the narrative perspective is different between the two works. It should be noted that there are also subtle amendments to dialogue - mostly bringing the protocol into line with what I established in later works, such as emperors always being called ‘(His/Your) Majesty’ or ‘(The) Son of Heaven’ by the loyalists, or correcting mistakes - but the actual things that take place are unchanged, just shown from a different standpoint. I would like to go back and correct this work, but that depends on time and whether there is a point to doing so. No ‘Second Edition’ plans at present!
T. P. M. Thorne