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The Hidden Family: Book Two of Merchant Princes Hardcover – May 19, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews
Book 2 of 6 in the Merchant Princes Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Miriam Beckstein, aka Countess Helge Thorold-Hjorth of the Clan, finds her own world to conquer in this fast-moving sequel to The Family Trade (2004)—a neo-Victorian America ruled by an English king in exile. Determined to show her uncle, Duke Angmar, that a hidden branch of the Clan is responsible for past assassinations and present attempts on her life, Miriam tracks them to the world of New Britain. There, she connects with a pawnbroker-cum-revolutionary and begins her own revolution to demonstrate the higher profits found in intellectual property smuggling. Before long, Miriam is battling suspicious royal security and the hidden family's hit team at the same time. Stross continues to mix high and low tech in amusing and surprising ways. However, while giving a gritty SF portrait of the marvels of modern market economics and correcting the too pretty portrait of too many medieval fantasy lands, he sometimes overlooks the realities that constrain both. Still, less historically minded readers can lose themselves in Miriam's attempts to survive the Clan's equally dangerous high-stakes business and social games. Stross weaves a tale worthy of Robert Ludlum or Dan Brown. Agent, Caitlin Blasdell at Liza Dawson Associates. (June 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The sequel to The Family Trade (2004) continues the adventures of Miriam, the high-tech journalist flung into a fantasy world that really does recall the early volumes of Roger Zelazny's Amber series. Miriam is now Lady Helge, and her family resembles one of the Mafia variety too closely for her own peace of mind. Meanwhile, she is the equivalent of a local capo. The locality in which she functions, at several levels of technology and ethics, is a well-drawn avatar of the Victorian era, whose people are, however, anything but helpless victims, and wouldn't be even if Lady Helge had far fewer scruples than she does have. Indeed, she is already showing enough scruples that, sooner or later, the family may notice--and being nice to clients is a big taboo for members of the hidden family. Laugh your way to an ending that clearly promises further enjoyable volumes. Roland Green
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Series: Merchant Princes (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books; 1st Ed edition (June 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765313472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765313478
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,377,179 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Hidden Family picks up at the end of The Family Trade and continues that story's basic premise, in both good and bad fashion. In the good, the story remains fast-paced, a quick and entertaining if not too deep read. Stross introduces us to another world here, one that lies somewhere between our own and the Clan's both technically and socially, opening new and more interesting settings. Miriam remains an active, strong character, joined by others equally strong. Questions from book one are answered while new ones are raised. And as he did in book one with regard to the medieval setting, Stross continues to capture the gritty reality of non-modern times, unlike many fantasy authors, though at times he does so too obviously, as when he has one of his characters shrilly make that point in a lengthy paragraph.

On the bad, the story continues to be bedeviled by jargon. Miriam still is too accomplished, too pre-set in convenient fashion to take over the situations. The characters still lack some depth and the romance, as it was in book one, reads as if Stross can't decide if he wants it realistic or as parody. And some of the questions answered seem a bit too pat or contrived. The book does come to some resolution at the end though it also obviously leaves room for more.

If the first book was mildly recommended, this one is as well, perhaps less so as one would hope for some improvements between one and two. The addition of the second world does add interest, however, so recommended it is, if not with a lot of excitement.
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Format: Hardcover
The Hidden Family, book 2 of the Merchant Princes saga picks up where book one left off. Miriam Beckstein was a journalist for a Red Herring-like magazine focusing on the Massachusetts bio-tech industry. A heretofore hidden past makes that life almost impossible to continue. In book 2, Miriam decides to strike out on her own to discover who has been trying to assassinate her as well as establish a business foothold of her own so that she can deal with her avaricious and unpleasant family from a position of power.

Very much mental chewing gum, The Hidden Family is a mildly interesting if sometimes irritating read. Miriam is a pleasantly strong female character but far too glib and adaptable to her circumstances while her circumstances are too accommodating for her. She manages to move through the action of the book without any serious obstacles to her plans. There's no sense that she could encounter a significant setback that would endanger her entire scheme at any moment that would require her ingenuity and intelligence to resolve.

Miriam knows all the questions and has all the answers, even in places she's never set foot in, before.

While most of the female characters come across as fairly strong, independent women they are interchangeable, without distinctive voices or personalities. There were times I had to re-read passages to determine which female character was speaking, when two or more were in a scene. Mr. Stross does slightly better at making the male characters distinct but all the men, every last one, are from Central Casting. None of the characters, male or female, inspire strong emotions in the reader.
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Format: Hardcover
Charles Stross is a true genre bender. Just when you think you've got him pegged he goes off in a different direction. Often several ways at once. Stross is one of those authors who has a good idea and promptly writes a book about it. And if it works out, he writes another book and makes a series of it. The Merchant Princes explores the idea of inter-dimensional travel, from, of all things, a business perspective.

In the first volume, The Family Trade, freelance journalist Miriam Beckstein discovers that she isn't Miriam Beckstein, but Helge Thorvold-Hjorth, a member of a clan in another dimension that has discovered how to travel to our own, and have set up a drug dealing business in order to buy goodies for their otherwise primitive, barely post-feudal, lifestyle. Think medieval mafia and you will have the big picture. In between various attempts on her life Miriam realizes that the Thorvold-Hjorth business model has reached its limits and she sets off, credit card in hand to make money where no journalist has gone before. Hence this novel, The Hidden Family.

Miriam, in the process of trying to discover who is plotting against her, discovers that there is more than one plot afoot. Somebody else besides the Clan can trip the dimensions fantastic and this new group has discovered an entirely new world of their own, something of a combination of an early 19th Century lifestyle with a good deal of modern science mixed in. Call it techno-Gothic. With three worlds before her, Miriam quickly realizes the opportunities for profit and sets about making a large profit while dodging assassins and plots to wrest her position and power away from her.

This is a great story, but it has some severe believability problems.
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