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Basilisk N M Browne

January 20, 2023


The combers live like spiders among endless underground tunnels linked by rope networks amd slippery rockfaces whilst in the beautiful city overhead, live the Abovers. These two worlds should never meet, but when the body of a murdered Abover appears in the catacombes below, their worlds begin to draw closer. Action packed, tense and brilliantly imagined, Basilisk will draw you into a dark and disturbing world.

Basilisk is a story which grew out of several disparate elements:

  1. I had started a SF story about a boy who lived underground in some strange underworld peopled by criminals and outcasts. He was a street wise teenagers called ‘Rej’ as in ‘reject.’ I liked the character but the story didn’t go anywhere.

  2. Several years ago I was in Amboise, a medieval French village and saw a chateau where Leonardo da Vinci had spent some time. There was an exhibition of his designs for weapons and warcraft and I thought how interesting it might have been if someone like him had turned his attention to chemical/psychological warfare instead. The Loire valley in France also has many troglodyte communities too, which also got me thinking.

  3. I have always loved the idea of dragons and stories about dragons and, as I know they are popular with other people too, I thought it would be fun to write a story about dragons.

  4. I love Florence and was very interested in the ruthless way in which politics was carried out in the Renaissance city states and fascinated by the power of a charismatic religious leader like Savaranola. I’m not sure those elements ended up as the story of ‘Basilisk’ but then ideas have a habit of developing in unexpected directions. I think I was heavily influenced by three books: George Orwell’s 1984, Margaret Atwood’s: The Handmaid’s Tale and a much less well known YA SF book I found in a second hand book shop and read first as a child Dark Universe: Daniel F Galouye about a society living underground after a nuclear war. I wanted to create an atmosphere of oppression and fear and keep the reader uncertain as to the outcome of the novel. I enjoyed making up the swear words that are the bed rock of Rej’s speech patterns. I asked my children to come up with as many as they could think of and went on from there. I always check my dialogue with my children anyway – the kiss of death for a novel is to have everyone speaking like a middle aged British woman!


A PSLA Young Adult Top 40 (or so) fiction title 2004 
"Readers will enjoy the spooky atmosphere, intriguing and often-untrustworthy characters, and the bizarre final duel." School Library Journal 
"Appealing teen characters. . .refreshingly complicated adults, and the palpable details of their divided world will keep fantasy devotees firmly anchored. . . The sounds and sights of Lunnzia are as vivid and memorable as anything in Philip Pullman's alternate-reality Oxford."-- starred review in Booklist 

Nominated Locus Award

Long listed  Carnegie Medal

'Itis rare to find a fantasy depicted with the passion, vigour and intelligence of this one...Browne weaves a thrilling adventure that you want to reread as soon as it's over.' The Times

"'Margaret Atwood meets George Orwell meets Rosemary Sutcliff…a fine, exciting and totally uncompromising read" School Librarian

She attempts no pyrotechnics, no outrageous plot twists, but relies on her solid storytelling skills – to construct an intriguing mystery to create believable and likeable characters and a fully realised world – to tell a gripping story…a memorable and satisfying read” Vector (British Science Fiction Association magazine)

Browne brings this world vividly to life for a powerful young adult fantasy unusually rich in atmosphere” Locus May 2004

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