- Series: Merchant Princes (Book 2)
- Mass Market Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Tor Fantasy; Reprint edition (May 2, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780765352057
- ISBN-13: 978-0765352057
- ASIN: 0765352052
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 0.9 x 6.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,096,281 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Hidden Family: Book Two of Merchant Princes Mass Market Paperback – May 2, 2006
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“Charles Stross brings info-tech philosophy to the world of fantasy. . . .Stories unfold across three worlds that are brought to life with humor-laced action.” ―The Denver Post
“It's an obvious homage to Zelazny's Amber series, but I like it a good deal more.” ―The San Diego Union-Tribune
“The Hidden Family is a festival of ideas in action, fast moving and often very funny, but underpinned by a rigorous logical strategy. . . .Stross's breezy, almost Heinleinian mode of narration is on fine display in The Hidden Family.” ―Locus
“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. . . . Stross continues to mix high and low tech in amusing and surprising ways. . . .[he] weaves a tale worthy of Robert Ludlum or Dan Brown.” ―Publishers Weekly
“English writer Charles Stross, whose books burst with pop-science ideas, intrigue, strong characters and even romance, continues his Merchant Princes series . . . . Stross is an energetic writer . . . who creates page-turning reads . . . . Readers will be relieved to learn that there is a lot to look forward to in The Hidden Family, including a finale that is all Gothic Romance: regrets, a ball and a happy reunion.” ―Bookpage
About the Author
Charles Stross is the author of the bestselling Merchant Princes series, the Laundry series, and several stand-alone novels including Glasshouse, Accelerando, and Saturn's Children. Born in Leeds, England, in 1964, Stross studied in London and Bradford, earning degrees in pharmacy and computer science. Over the next decade and a half he worked as a pharmacist, a technical writer, a software engineer, and eventually as a prolific journalist covering the IT industry. His short fiction began attracting wide attention in the late 1990s; his first novel, Singularity Sky, appeared in 2003. He has subsequently won the Hugo Award twice. He lives with his wife in Edinburgh, Scotland, in a flat that is slightly older than the state of Texas.
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This builds on the first book but tightens everything up a notch. I could hardly put this book down.
The problem with this series (if you can call it a problem) is that it isn't marketed the right way. I put off reading it for years because the back of book blurb made it sound like cheesy cod-medieval wish-fulfillment with a Mary Sue type protagonist. I couldn't reconcile that with my experience of Stross, so eventually I started with this series and I'm so glad I did. It's just a shame I didn't read it earlier.
The whole 'Merchant Princes' series title and the awful synopses of this series really misrepresent what it is. It isn't fantasy, and it certainly isn't Renaissance genre fantasy. It's a mix-up of tough as nails thriller and parallel dimensions sci-fi, with plenty of political sub-text. The Amber series may have been fantasy, but this series merely pays homage to Amber while doing its own thing.
Miriam is a girl of modern society. She is a business reporter in the high tech field and has been raised in modern America. In the first volume of this series, she learned that she was not really from around here. She is from an alternate reality version of earth still stuck under the feudal system. What makes her special is that people of her family have the ability to cross dimensions. This has proven quite lucrative for them as they become, in effect, very effective drug smugglers. When Miriam goes back to her home world, she upsets the power structure and learns that her mother was a fugitive from an arranged marriage. This leads to multiple attempts on her life.
In this installment, Miriam has her own ideas how the world(s) ought to work. She starts to piece together some of the assassination plots from the last book and comes to the realization that there is yet a third world she can get access to. This one has more of a Victorian level of technology. She figures she can make a fortune by importing technological innovation. Unfortunately, this world is also home to a distant branch of her family who are involved in a deadly feud with her own branch. They are all the more deadly since her branch does not even realize that this new branch or its world even exists. She also stumbles on an effort to take over her own family.
It is a story of intrigue and ingenuity versus the status quo and vested interests. I found myself quite taken with it and am starting the third volume immediately.
I have become a fan of Charles Stross, and have now read all five of the novels (which I am aware of) that he has in print. He definitely knows how to grab the reader (at least this reader!).
I liked this particular book better than I liked The Family Trade. The Family Trade seemed to me to start out awkwardly. I have done some (so far uncommercial) writing myself, and I have noticed something I think of as the "transition point" -- before this point, I feel like I'm just making stuff up, while after this point, I feel like it's all real and the characters and the situation are forcing things in a certain direction. The Family Trade felt like Stross "just making up stuff" almost halfway through. If I hadn't read others of his before this one, I might have given it up as a loss. The second half certainly took off!
The Hidden Family, of course, started out without this problem, the characters and the main background having been already set up in the first book. I liked the way Stross thickened the plot by bringing in another alternate world along with the long-lost kinfolk, as well as the intrigue etc. (no spoilers here!).
Others have commented on the realism of the pre-modern settings, Stross' grasp of factors that many fantasy authors tend to ignore, and so on. I have only one minor (very minor!) quibble, and that is the fact that Stross writes like an Englishman, and sometimes his American characters don't sound American to me at all! There is one sequence in the story where one character is telling the other to "come on!," and I kept hearing it in my mind's ear as "COME on," rather than the American "come ON." I suppose it came out like that because of the surrounding dialogue etc. As I said, this is very minor (most readers probably would never notice), and won't keep me from buying his next novel in hardcover, the minute it comes out.
I don't do plot resumes but let's just say that there are some new elements, including some major changes. One character becomes something quite different than we, unless you are much sharper than I, excpected and another one is diminished totally. Others change and add new aspects. New event twists abound.
The dialogue continues to be very appealing. I would not, as one character did, say that someone used someone else "like a card in a poker game." A player doesn't use cards. A player _uses_ chips. Poker players act by betting. The cards are static until discarded or shown down. "Like a chip in a poker game" would fit much better.
I see some negative reviews about the next book in the series but they aren't all that negative. I will see for myself. Soon.