three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
user_rating: 
0

Book One of the Merchant Princes

A-FamilyTradeIntrepid tech reporter Miriam Beckstein has the story of the year: she’s uncovered a huge money-laundering scheme. But as soon as she takes it to her editor, she’s quickly fired and fielding a death threat from the criminals. She soon receives a strange locket that once belonged to her mother who was murdered years ago. As Miriam stares, hypnotized, at the locket, she is whisked into another world. Now she finds herself in the medieval kingdom of Gruinmarkt, where the ruling families are locked in a battle—with machine guns. Miriam must skip between parallel worlds to evade the assassins and solve the mystery of her heritage.
Tor/Forge. 304 pages. $24.95. ISBN: 0765309297

Contra Costa Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The Family Trade is clearly volume one of many, and if Stross can keep up the pace he set in the first book, this will be a series to savor. … The Family Trade is a winner." Clay Kallam

Austin Amer-Statesman 3 of 5 Stars
"The Family Trade inserts modern-day Macroeconomics 101 lessons into the feudalistic world of dukedoms, servants and assassins." Jessica Reisman

San Francisco Chronicle 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Miriam’s predicament is presented with great wit and high suspense. … Unfortunately, there’s also a whole lot of setup without much in the way of payoff." Michael Berry

Critical Summary

British science fiction author Stross (Singularity Sky 3 of 5 Stars 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.