A Sterkarm Kiss by Susan Price
Scholastic Press (UK) HCVR: ISBN 0439978386 PubDate: 10/17/03
Review by Iain Emsley
320 pgs. List price £12.99
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In The Sterkarm Handshake, Susan Price introduced the reader to a twenty first century world where a corporation, FUP, had created a time tunnel to the sixteenth century Borders, a wild land where nobody rules but the clans. The main clan who had dealings with FUP were the notoriously unreliable Sterkarms leading to a violet showdown. At the end of The Sterkarm Handshake, the tunnel was left smoking by a sixteenth century raiding party.
James Windsor has recreated the Time Tunnel in secret and has linked back to a separate sixteenth century Sterkarm clan to whom he presents himself as a man of peace. Merely by chance, one of these new Sterkharms comes into contact with Andrea, the anthropologist from the first expedition. Windsor offers her the chance to go back with a new team to witness a matrimonial alliance between the Sterkarms and their arch enemies, the Grannams. Unbeknownst to both sides, Windsor is stoking the animosity between the clans. Andrea discovers the plan and returns to the twenty first century before cunningly going to the original Sterkarms, no friends of Windsors.
Price delivers a monster tale of fighting, feasting and reiving with her two different time-lines. She brings the past vividly to life but never drowns the reader in detail, or loses sight of the story. The narrative comes shining through and delivers a gripping plot. There are times when the reader has to take note of what is being said just to catch the cadences and differing speech but this is far from being a novel that is impossible to read.
This new novel neatly harks back to the universe of The Sterkarm Handshake but also carries on its own right. Price is seemingly aware of the paradoxes of time-slip and travel though we will have to wait until the third book to see whether she manages to pull this off. To add to this, the characters are strong and well developed, running with their own motivations.
In an increasingly sophisticated children's market, the quality of the literature has developed along with the growth in sales. Susan Price has ensured that Science Fiction has not been left in the wake of the ubiquitous wizards and world traveling children.