Browne, N(icky) M(atthews)
BROWNE, N(icky) M(atthews)
PERSONAL: Born in Burnley, Lancashire, England; married; children: four. Education: Attended New College, Oxford and King's College, Cambridge; Manchester Business School, M.B.A.
ADDRESSES: Agent—Mic Cheetham Literary Agency, 11-12 Dover St., Green Park, London W1S 4LJ, England.
CAREER: Author. Worked as a teacher and as an oil company executive.
Warriors of Alavna, Bloomsbury Children's Books (London, England), 2000.
Warriors of Camlann (sequel to Warriors of Alavna), Bloomsbury Children's Books (London, England), 2000.
Hunted, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2002.
Basilisk, Bloomsbury Children's Books (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: N. M. Browne was born in the north of England of Welsh parents, both of whom were teachers. Browne was a teacher for a while, but she chose to be a writer while raising her family. Critics have praised the imaginative plots of her novels and their characters.
In Warriors of Alavna, the first of Browne's young-adult novels, two very dissimilar British students are engulfed in a yellow fog while on a field trip. When they emerge on the other side, they find themselves in Britain at the time of the Roman conquest. Ursula, six feet tall and a loner, and Dan, a popular athlete and student, join a Celtic tribe that has lost its women and children in a massacre. The teens use their new powers to help the tribe defeat the Romans. Ursula must adapt to a time when women's roles were restricted, and her ability to change shape allows her to sometimes take the form of a male warrior. Dan becomes a killer called a "berserker," and although the book is written for young readers, it contains considerable violence, as noted by Linda Saunders in School Librarian. Saunders also wrote that the book is "fast paced" as well as "well written and original." A reviewer for Books for Keeps noted, however, that the "inappropriate use of contemporary language" sometimes mars the flow of the narrative. A Kirkus Reviews contributor praised the secondary characters and called the plot "great," adding that Ursula and Dan develop skills and mature as the novel progresses. "The world-building," continued the reviewer, "in which ecological, historical, and cultural elements both support and energize the plot, is masterful."
In Warriors of Camlann, which a Kirkus Reviews contributor described as "that rarity: a sequel more polished and engrossing than its predecessor," Ursula and Dan have been separated but are reunited in the fifth century, the age of Camelot. They find that they have lost some powers but gained new ones. School Library Journal contributor Patricia A. Dollisch wrote that "Browne has created a strong, fierce young woman and an introspective, sensitive, young man" and praised the story as "fascinating and thrilling."
Browne's American debut, Hunted, is a fantasy that begins in the present time, when Karen, the protagonist, is assaulted by a gang of girls. Just as she loses consciousness in the arms of her grandmother, and as she is being watched over by her grandmother, she imagines herself to be a fox attacked by a vicious pack of dogs. She awakens as a fox in medieval times, where she is rescued by a shepherd named Mowl. He believes her to be a supernatural being known as an arl, a creature that can survive only twenty-four days without a transformation back into its original state. Mowl is also in danger because of his father's alleged treason, and they escape together to find an Adept who can cause the necessary change in Karen. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "the mythology and culture of Mowl's realm are fascinating, and the fight scenes, escapes, and revelations will swiftly propel readers through to the conclusion." A Kirkus Reviews critic called this third Browne novel "clever and compelling."
Basilisk is about the two worlds above and below the city of Lunnzia. The anarchically minded "Combers," like the character Rej, are free from oppression but must live underground in order to remain so, while the "Abovers" work as servants of the ruler Arkel and the regime that runs the city. Donna, an assassin who relies on poisons, is assigned to work above ground as the scribe of the evil Melagiar and is then given charge of Rej. When Donna and Rej meet, they discover that they share the same vivid dream of flying dragons. Together they try to understand the dream and the fearful weapon that may destroy both worlds. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews called Basilisk "suspenseful and rather original, marred only by pedestrian language." Amanda Craig wrote in the London Times that Browne "has the gift of making you care about her teenaged protagonists, to feel for them as they struggle for courage and love and also to see them as intensely attractive presences."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 2004, Jennifer Mattson, review of Basilisk, p. 1450.
Bookseller, January 23, 2004, review of Basilisk, p. 28.
Books for Keeps, November, 2000, review of Warriors of Alavna, p. 27.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 2004, Timnah Card, review of Basilisk, p. 457.
Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2002, review of Hunted, p. 801; September 1, 2002, review of Warriors of Alavna, p. 1305; May 15, 2003, review of Warriors of Camlann, p. 746; April 15, 2004, review of Basilisk, p. 391.
Kliatt, July, 2002, Paula Rohrlick, review of Hunted, p. 7.
Locus, June, 2002, Carolyn Cushman, review of Hunted, p. 35.
Publishers Weekly, July 1, 2002, review of Hunted, p. 80; April 19, 2004, review of Basilisk, p. 62.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 21, 2004, Sue Bradford Edwards, review of Basilisk, p. E3.
School Librarian, winter, 2000, Linda Saunders, review of Warriors of Alavna, p. 211.
School Library Journal, August, 2002, Beth Wright, review of Hunted, p. 182; July, 2003, Patricia A. Dollisch, review of Warriors of Camlann, p. 124; June, 2004, Hillias J. Martin, review of Basilisk, p. 135.
Times (London, England), April 3, 2004, Amanda Craig, review of Basilisk, p. 17.
Times Educational Supplement, May 5, 2000, review of Warriors of Alavna, p. 23.
Asian Review of Books Online,http://www.asianreviewofbooks.com/ (November 3, 2002), Charles Foran, review of Hunted.
N. M. Browne Home Page,http://www.nmbrowne.com (September 30, 2004).