The mysterious N.M.Browne (a pseudonym apparently)is, alongside Catherine Fisher, the most intriguing British fantasy writer around, and Basilisk confirms this. It isn't a magical time-travel story like the two Warriors books, or Hunted, but set in a completely strange world, believed to have been created by the Arche, a being whose benign incarnation is a golden dragon, and whose malign incarnation is a black basilisk. Two protagonists, Rej from the underground Combers, and Donna, an oppidan scribe in the world of Abovers both dream of dragons. Their minds and destinies are linked, and will lead to a revolution. This is sorely needed for both societies are starving as a result of war and corruption, both due to the corrupt dictator Arkel who has forbidden all luxuries. Donna, a beautiful young woman is drawn into working for an aristocrat whose tongueless, tortured sister arouses her pity. Rej, finding his way to the world above, determined to avenge a murdered man, falls in love with her, and Donna tries to protect him while becoming trapped in the wiles and drugs of a former slave. Torture, betrayal, sacrifice make this Browne's darkest and most gripping novel yet. It describes a world of claustrophobic fear, shot through with intense passion and a scene of drug-induced eroticism that is deeply disturbing while never being explicit. If the idea of dragons sounds cliched, then the way Browne uses them is anything but. Highly recommended.
I have read this twice. But only because I found it in my attic and could not remember how it ended the first time. I thought I had not finished it, but when I finished it the second time I knew I had.
That should tell you something!
But its readable enough. A story of struggle against a tyrannical regime. It has some good ideas and interesting moments. Just not enough of them!
And failed. 'the best author since Rosemary Sutcliff' says the blurb on the back of the book. Intrigued by this confidant assertion, I picked up the book, bought it and settled down to enjoy a good book. Or so I wished. For the ideas are there. The idea of a creater and destoyer god does seem to fit in well with Sumerian and Iranian myth. The characters at the start seem eminetely likeable and some of the descriptions do sound like Sutcliff. But Browne made the worst error possible, and that is bad writing. It goes rapidly downhill from chapter two. The main character, living underground in a catacomb, trying to solve a murder, really annoyed me and after ploughing wearily through this book, I wanted to zip his mouth shut with duct tape. The plot didn't carry my attention, and while it was alright for a lazy Sunday afternoon read, if you're looking for quality fantasy faire, stick with Jonathon Stroud, Brian Jacques or Nancy Farmer with the excellent Sea of Trolls. There are good scenes but they are the exception rather than the rule and overall Basilisk is a real wasted opportunity. It could have been great but it burned and crashed with its poor writing. What could have been...