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3.4 out of 5 stars11
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on 26 June 2005
"The Hidden Family" continues the tale of Miriam Beckstein, a one time investigative journalist, business woman, liberal thinker and dimensional world walker.
In a direct continuation from "The Family Trade" (the novel starts a few weeks after the previous book's conclusion), Miriam continues her plans to lever herself some power within her recently discovered family whilst making sense of the ever twisting Family politics. And more importatly, figure out what and who the mysterious are that tried to assassinate her previously.
The Hidden Family draws together several plot strings first presented in book 1, revealing a little more of the history, custom, politics and future of the clans - all the while setting up more questions and plots for the future, as well as throwing in several big suprises to keep you on your toes!
This book is a step again better than book 1 (though really they should be one big novel) and if you read them on after another, you can really see the thought that has gone into the history of the alternate worlds.
A 4.576 stars if I could get that picky!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 1 June 2009
....and it worked well for me. There is just enough back story to make the plot clear without spoiling my enjoyment of the first book - a neat trick from Charles Stross and one of the reasons he is a favourite author here.
This is highly inventive writing, with a tightly-woven plot that twists and turns, then doubles back just when you think that things are heading a particular direction. He uses the whole canvas available to him.
Our protagonist is a seemingly tough lady journalist with scientific training, I found that she grows on you as her underlying vulnerabilities and qualities are coloured in.
The character development is gradual but well fleshed-out in the main players - some of the supporting cast is more mysteriously depicted, but this can turn out to be necessary in the subsequent books. All is not entirely as it seems.
There is nothing predictable here, at least for me!
I am now on the fourth book, loved them all, and this one is a favourite, having started the series her.
Recommended for those who enjoy action-driven SF that explores alternative worlds with a retro flavour. Worth trying one of the books to see if you like it, since there is more of the same, and the pace never flags.
I loved it! Hope you do too.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 November 2013
I liked this more than the first book as the premise has been established and we got on with the adventure. I still didn't quite fall into it though. Maybe it's because almost all the main characters in this are women and it's easy to wonder which one Brill was again. We also don't meet the poor people, though we do get a better look at them.
Miriam the former journalist has world-walked into a less advanced version of America and people have tried to kill her for her involvement with a sponging aristocratic family that she didn't know she had. In this book she world-walks into another alternate version of America, somewhat more industrialised but running on coal like in 'The Two Georges'. I found it hard to believe that nobody had ever experimented with designs before on the medallions that allow them to travel. And who would not bring back solar panels and copper pipes from our world to wire and plumb their draughty castle? We also see no obvious sources of power such as windmills and watermills. Anyway, people continue trying to kill our heroine as she sets up a business selling patents and subversive ideas.
For a determined bright woman, it's a fine story, but Miriam doesn't come across as particularly feminine and she has a filthy mouth. In other words, a man in drag. At one point the mother she didn't know she had reappears and the way this is done just felt forced, as though the author had changed his mind and used a character who already was written in from the previous book. Maybe not.
I still note that Stross doesn't know how to use colons. He follows a colon with a capital letter. This is incorrect. It's also very annoying.
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on 21 May 2006
It's fortunate that I read "The Hidden Family" immediately after "The Family Trade" rather than buying them as they were published, as they are really one story split over two volumes, and neither volume completely makes sense on its own - indeed there's one scene in "The Family Trade" which makes no sense whatsoever as it is completely separate from the rest of that books' story. Read as one work, however, this is a very engaging parallel worlds story which I can heartily recommend.
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on 11 November 2012
i was so engrossed by this book when it came my way that i could not put it down and read it in one go.
Having just bought a kindle and still in bed when I finished this book I immediately purchased the 2nd instalment.
Again absolutly enthralling, I am hooked totally on this series, but eventually went a purchased "real books" for
the final three of the series as the Kindle editions were so overpriced saving myself £5

I have now ditched the kindle and purchased a Barnes and Noble NOOK ereader which allows me to download free library books
so Bye Bye Amazon/Kindles rip off. I will save a fortune now.
Great series. But unsure if the odd "ending or conclusion of this series" is due to Stross leaving him the option to run with more books in this series or just he ran out of a better ending>?The Hidden Family (Merchant Princes)
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on 12 April 2012
I too am a big fan of Charles Stross, but I think that this book and the first in the 'Family' series should have been one book. The first one just stops in mid flow like a first episode of a serial reminiscent of the 'cliff hangers' of the silent movie era.

I was enjoying the story and was quite surprised when it ended abruptly. I feel this is a cynical ploy on the part of the author and publishers to extract more money from the reader.

I will be very wary of starting any more books by this author before checking the reviews. Considering this is a Kindle edition I feel that it is very expensive and definitely not worth the money. As other reviewers have pointed out, the subject has been covered by other authors in a better way. Stick to what you do best Charles - unless you're seriously short of money, that is.
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on 1 November 2010
This is the second half of what sould have been a single novel, and it shows. The explanation of mercantilism which was badly needed at the end of the first book is at the beginning of this one instead, and there's no attempt to explain the story so far. A little editing would have solved that, so I can only assume there was no attempt to make the books workable separately. A pity; better publishing would have made all the difference.

That being said, the book is a good one. I'm on my second read, and I can only suggest that the work be treated as a single novel in six volumes, rather than as six semi-independent works. Normally, any novel in a series should read as an independent unit, but that's not the case here.
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on 20 May 2013
Charles Stross is a great writer. His high tech books engross and entertain. His take on Cthulu in the Laundry series is unique and amazing. However the Merchant Princes series really fails to engross me. Perhaps because everything else feels new and original, whereas the concept of a parallel world with magic and limited technology has been done before. Kieth Laumer's Lafayette O'Leary books, are the oldest I can recall, but I expect there are others. Nothing wrong with using established themes, but I just could not find myself caring about any characters or give a hoot about anything else in the plot.
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on 25 July 2009
Carrying on from where the first book in the series left off, this is really the second half of the story that the previous volume started. As such, it makes some things rather clearer which were just confusing in the first installment, although not all - but then, there are more sequels to come. Overall, this and its predecessor combine to make one satisfying story which I have no hesitation in recommending to you.

But that's a recommendation for the two books together. This one won't work well in isolation.
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on 14 November 2008
I am a huge fan of Charles Stross, particularly his pure sci-fi stuff. I bought this and its prequel based on my enjoyment of those earlier books. The first novel Family Trade is quite enjoyable, setting out, as it does, an interesting case of alternate universes. However, by the end of this second book I have decided to pursue the series no further. Characters are not as well developed as they might be and the second book is very slow. I could not understand why Stross decided to kill off a central character for no particular benefit and I find the emotions of the characters shallow. As I have said, I am a big fan of Stross but this does nothing for me. Sorry!!
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