August 29, 2005

Strange Worlds with N.M. Browne

Welsh author N.M. Browne writes novels of alternate worlds, and is all about fantasy. I read her book Warriors of Alavna, and its sequel, Warriors of Camlann, in which two school children, on a field trip, are suddenly flung back thousands of years into King Arthur's time. It's a strange world in which they find themselves, and they possess the most amazing powers - one becomes a beserker, the other a sort of warrior woman. I enjoyed these books well enough, but neither of them was the measure of her book, Basilisk.

Imagine a world in which people are divided by caste. They are the Abovers, and the Combers, the poor who make a world in the cold and darkness of the underground catacombs. Above ground are the workers, bound by creed and law, each in their place. They can own nothing, and even possessing one's self is a crime. Below in the catacombs, nothing is sure except death. The world is the way it is... Greed, power plays and deception abound, and one day, a Comber, Rej, discovers an Abover in one of his hideaways. Swearing vengeance for the life of the murdered man, Rej takes a greater risk in going Above. The worlds of Abover and Comber draw irrevocably closer, as Rej meets Donna, a worker who is trapped in her life as a scribe, where food and clothing are rationed, workers live in crowded communal quarters, and war with other nations goes on and on. Stranger than the life of Above and Comber is the world of dreams... Rej and Donna are having the same dream, over and over. Stranger still, the dreams are of dragons in flight. But, everyone knows there are no dragons, right? So why does Rej dream of a sky he's never seen? And why is Donna waking up with sore arms?

The ruler of the city, Arkel, is determined that he have these dreams... Because the population is out of control. If he could just dream dragons, he could scare the catacombers -- and other of his enemies -- to death. Literally. Donna and Rej have to figure out their power, and understand the basilisk, before it's too late.

This is a richly imaginative tale, and one that will make you sort of have to drop everything until you get through it. Check it out -- it's the type of book that spurs on your imagination. Maybe it'll prompt you to come up with something!

Happy reading!

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