Review

The Family Trade: Book One of the Merchant Princes

by Charles Stross



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. However, that makes her wonder: if
her birth mother could have escaped to the other world, why hadn't
she done so to escape her murderer?

As Miriam sleeps in her own bed, she is kidnapped. Her kidnappers
wear swords and call Miriam "your highness." The reader discovers
what happens when take-charge Miriam finds herself in an unbearable
and dangerous situation. Her actions set this series in motion,
leaving us anxious for volume two of the series. Can Miriam
single-handedly drag her new world out of the middle ages? Can she
somehow change the despicable trade her family is engaged in? And,
with her life in constant danger, will she survive to accomplish
her lofty goals?

THE FAMILY TRADE's characters are endearingly flawed and likeable.
The pace is quick, with many unusual twists in the plot, and the
story is riveting from the first sentence --- an excellent read!
When, oh when, will Book Two be out?

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on January 21, 2011

The Family Trade: Book One of the Merchant Princes
by Charles Stross

  • Publication Date: December 1, 2004
  • Genres: Fantasy, Fiction
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books
  • ISBN-10: 0765309297
  • ISBN-13: 9780765309297