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The Family Trade (Merchant Princes) Mass Market Paperback – April 28, 2005

85 customer reviews
Book 1 of 6 in the Merchant Princes Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Best known for his Accelerando novels (Singularity Sky, etc.) of an ever-speedier techno-Singularity, British author Stross mixes high-tech with medieval trappings in this highly entertaining science fantasy in the "misplaced modern" mode. Reporter Miriam Beckstein, recently fired for exposing a money laundering scheme and threatened by the criminals involved, finds that staring at her mother's antique brooch can move her from contemporary America to a Viking-settled parallel universe, where she discovers her true heritage as a countess among the world-walking, goods-smuggling Clan. Struggling to master the mores and politics of her new family, Miriam discovers trust to be the rarest commodity in which they deal. Earl Roland, her new love, may be too loyal to her uncle, Duke Angbard, while Roland's intended, the Baroness Olga, is much more than a silly heiress waiting to be married off. Miriam schemes to update the Clan's ancient business and make herself invaluable to their interests, before one of the many assassins after her succeeds. Stross makes much of the incongruity of modern technology alongside old-fashioned costumes and customs, and many will be reminded of Roger Zelazny's Amber books, which had similar dizzying intrigues.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

British science fiction author Stross (Singularity Sky *** Jan/Feb 2004) has written “a solid page-turner and an uncommonly promising series launcher,” writes Michael Berry in the San Francisco Chronicle. Some readers, however, may be put off by the book’s lengthy backstory and a few of the smaller roles read “like stock characters from a historical romance” (Austin American-Statesman). Though Family Trade does not boast the most original premise, Stross pulls off the first of this series with wit and precision. The American Statesman’s Reisman speculates that this novel could be read as a critique of the fantasy genre, especially considering Gruinmarkt’s devastating lack of technological smarts. Miriam views this new world from a contemporary perspective, so there’s plenty to mock-that’s all part of the fun.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Series: Merchant Princes (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Fantasy; Reprint edition (May 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765348217
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765348210
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 0.9 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #943,005 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Stross, 50, is a full-time science fiction writer and resident of Edinburgh, Scotland. The author of six Hugo-nominated novels and winner of the 2005, 2010, and 2015 Hugo awards for best novella, Stross's works have been translated into over twelve languages.

Like many writers, Stross has had a variety of careers, occupations, and job-shaped-catastrophes in the past, from pharmacist (he quit after the second police stake-out) to first code monkey on the team of a successful dot-com startup (with brilliant timing he tried to change employer just as the bubble burst).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Terrell T. Gibbs on December 5, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Charles Stross is a relatively new writer who has already developed quite a track record of breathing new life into classic SF themes. In Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise were stories of interstellar adventure, but set in a post-singularity universe. In the Atrocity Archives he gave us spies vs. Lovecraftian horrors. Now, once again, it is time for something completely different.

The Family Trade is a slim book that is clearly the first of a series (Merchant Princes). Miriam Beckstein is a financial reporter specializing in biotech. She is fired when she stumbles over a money-laundering scheme that her bosses have a stake in, and then discovers that she is the long lost child of a family of Merchant Princes from an alternate earth who have the genetic ability to cross from their medieval alternate earth to ours, and who have built up a financial empire based upon cross-world import/export and smuggling.

The naive character suddenly over her head in an alien culture is a familiar SF theme, and Stross handles it expertly. The Merchant Princes have an essentially medieval attitude toward women, while Miriam is a modern, American, professional woman. The Merchant Princes have a complicated family structure (they are required to marry into the family to maintain expression of the recessive world-walking trait). Miriam must quickly find her balance in the complex family intrigues of the Princes before one of them decides to assassinate her (and assassination is hard to avoid when an assassin can suddenly pop in from an alternate world). But she has one key asset--her knowledge of modern business practices and her skills as an investigative journalist.
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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Esther Schindler TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Long ago, when I played a lot of fantasy role playing games (D&D for grownups) we had long discussions about how much one could do with a single magic spell. In a sense, that's what the author has examined here: if you had the single "magic" capability of swapping between two universes in a flash... what could you accomplish that you couldn't do now? What would you bring back and forth, and who would benefit?

It's a great premise, and the author does a good (not blow-me-away-wow but good) job at exploring it. Miriam is a high-tech journalist who loses her job and, on the same day, through a series of mishaps, discovers that staring at her birth mother's locket can bring her to an alternate universe. (It's in the same place as Boston, for instance... just a different history that brought the people there.)

Do be aware that this is the first of a series; the author doesn't wrap up very much at the end, so you may not feel as though the book has closure. Also, the story is heavy on political intrigue, and brings up economic theory; that may be a turn-off or something you appreciate.

While the story isn't perfect -- there were a few places in which I thought the protagonist simply wouldn't DO that -- the book held my interest, and I stayed up late to finish it. It also re-sparked our old discussions about what you could do with this particular single magic spell: would *you* have made the same decisions that Miriam did? that her family did? Any novel that instigates philosophical conversations gets a positive nod.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
You have to love a book that starts out with this kind of a bang: "Ten and a half hours before a mounted knight with a machine gun tried to kill her, tech journalist Miriam Beckstein lost her job. Before the day was out, her pink slip would set in train a chain of events that would topple governments, trigger civil wars, and kill thousands."

The trouble starts when Miriam uncovers an enormous money-laundering scheme. When she brings it to the attention of her boss, she's instantly fired. As it turns out, Miriam's now ex-employer's parent company is deep in the action. Miriam visits her ailing adoptive mother, who gives her newspaper articles about Miriam's birth mother --- a "Jane Doe" who was stabbed to death. The murdered woman's baby, Miriam, was adopted. Now Miriam's adoptive mother challenges Miriam to investigate the murder.

Along with the papers, Miriam receives a locket worn by her murdered mother. As she examines it, she sees blue-white lights, smells burning toast, her stomach is upset, the light goes out, and she falls down. When she rises, she is no longer in her home. Instead, she's outside in a forest. As she attempts to orient herself, she spies a most disorienting sight --- armored knights riding horses toward her, and shooting at her. She gazes again at the locket and finds herself near her home.

Miriam decides she must return to the mysterious place. Not only must she satisfy her journalist's curiosity, but she also needs to find the connection that the strange forest may have with her birth mother. After her life is threatened concerning her knowledge of the money-laundering scheme, she suspects that she may someday have to travel to the forest to hide.
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