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3.8 out of 5 stars12
3.8 out of 5 stars
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If someone has keenly followed Miriam's adventures they will probably enjoy this book of travel between alternate worlds more than I did. The series is one long story with no real conclusions, just continuations.

In this episode various characters have to fight for their lives in one or other of the two alternate worlds, though our modern US military has somehow managed to get there as well, and an atomic bomb is being sought in today's America. This makes for a confusing situation which appears to be contrary to the original premise that world-walkers came from a certain bloodline.

We open with a devastated palace where a bomb and fire have killed many people who were hoping to celebrate a wedding. Plotters want to take over the throne and can do this by killing their own family members. Miriam, a journalist from our time, has managed to escape being wed to a family member and runs off, promptly world-walking her way into trouble. Meanwhile a patrol of today's soldiers encounters both deadly fire and steel man-traps in the undergrowth.

The trouble, I think, is that a new reader will have no knowledge of what is going on, so several different people each have to tell someone else what has happened up to then, but in all this scramble, we are left without any emotional connection. So someone is killed - should I care? Whose side was he on, and which is the good side? Is there a good side? Who is Miriam and why am I supposed to like her? I had read the earlier books a few months previously and during this book I felt no sympathy for any character so halfway I stopped being concerned about the outcome. It was all just fighting.

I suggest that maybe reading the books back to back is the way to do it, to sustain connection with the story and characters.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This (the fourth) is far and away the best (so far) of Charles Stross' "Merchant Princes" series. In contrast with the last volume, where she was rather tied down, Miriam is now a free(er) agent again, albeit on the run from the Clan, the New Britain "Polis" and the spooky "Family Trade Organisation". The Clan is fighting both the FTO and the would be King of Gruinmarkt, the medieval parallel world - and losing. And a democratic opposition in New Britain begins to stir.

Overall, the story rattles along, with new elements dropped in - a fourth world, and hints of where the Clan's abilities come from - and some moments of comedy - as when the Clan's troops go to war dressed as medieval reenactors - then it stops, right in the middle of a battle. I'm already impatient for the next volume.

One mystery I've spotted this time - though it's not new - someone is taping the Clan's discussions. Clearly not the FTO, and New Britian doesn't have the technology - so who?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 7 December 2010
As I said about the earlier books, there were problems with this series, but by the time Stross got this far, the publisher had delivered their fiat about book length. This is the second half of what was once due to be a single book, but while the first half is still something of a mess, this is much better. The plot advances, still at a galloping pace (and at times I wished he'd slow down), but the book is highly enjoyable, and to be recommended along with the rest.
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on 24 May 2010
Probably my favourite volume of this series so far. The pace of the story-telling is just right and kept me turning the pages compulsively, right into a major cliffhanger!

In previous books, I've found it a little hard to follow the political intrigue amongst the Clan factions, and it had been 18 months since I read the third book so I was slightly apprehensive about picking the story up again. However, with just a little re-capping I found the story easy to get in to.

While moving Miriam's story forward (a little) Charles Stross has brought a few new elements to the broader plot and I'm looking forward to seeing how things go in the next book. There's even a hint of science fictional elements to come (won't say any more than that!) but then travelling between parallel earths is the central theme of the books, so perhaps that's not really so new after all?

As mentioned in almost every review here, this is very much one part of a series - you must read the first three books before tackling this one and be aware that there are two more to follow!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 9 January 2008
I like Stross and bought this book because it was the next in sequence about Miriam & her other world family. Unfortunately, I am frustrated because this (like the previous 3rd novel) is just a segment of a larger novel and one could get a feeling of being strung along for financial reasons.

As said by others, this book leaves you in the middle of a battle. Good writing, good characters, but not a book on its own. Wait for the compilation.
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VINE VOICEon 1 February 2008
I liked this book better than the last in the series. Now that we're on book 4, some of the books will stand out more than others. All of them have been highly enjoyable, but this one was definitely one of the better.

Miriam was able to escape marriage to the "Idiot". In New Britain she was compelled to seek help from the Movement. Erasmus Burgeson becomes her nurse-maid until such time as she is able to contact the right people back on Niewjim. In the old world the new king is planning to exterminate the Family. Back in Miriam's original world (ours) plans are laid to discover just how the gene works. Then the Family will be destroyed. People from Miriam's family are testing patterns in order to find new and more amenable worlds.

Everyone seems to be after everyone else in this book, while Miriam is on the run. Things are getting a bit more complicated and there is definitely another book on the way. I look forward to making its acquaintance.
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on 1 February 2009
I hate marking a book down but the author's cynical use of of yet another cliff-hanger ending deserve the low rating.

If alternate history writers like Harry Turtledove can write satisfactory endings into books in long-running series then a similarly able writer like Charles Stross could easily do the same.

I'd recommend that you not buy this book until the next one is in print. And that holds true for Books One to Three. You'll have to buy them all or else your reading experience will be highly unsatisfactory. Such a shame to manipulate readers - the one's who generate the writer's royalties - in this way.
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on 12 January 2013
After reading the first three books in the series I looked forward to this one.I was not disappointed,the action is fast and furious spread over the three parallel worlds.I do not think I am giving too much of the plot away by telling you there are more worlds to come.The plot thickens.I can heartily recommend this series'
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2008
This is the fourth in the Merchant Princes series, and returns to the fast-paced action of the first book that first drew me into this marvellous story of parallel worlds, dark secrets and Machiavellian intigue. On the upside, it is a rollercoaster journey as we follow Miriam's escape from the coup d'etat in the world of her new-found family. We learn more about the supporting cast and the perils that the Clan now find themselves in.

On the downside I would emphasise that you probably cannot read this book out of sequence and get as much out of it. There is little referral back to the events of the previous novels, and if you haven't read them you will be at a severe disadvantage. Also, this is only part of an ongoing story, and the ending might leave you dissatified if you expect a meaningful denouement. Personally, I'm just looking forward to the next installment. I'm also happy that the heroine has recovered some of the credibility as a character she lost in the last book, helped by the increasing importance of her friends and allies.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2009
Starting at the moment the previous volume left off, there's not much to say about this volume other than that it's full of juicy goodness, and again ends on something of a cliff-hanger. It was great fun to read, suffering from the well-known problem good books have of keeping me awake until sunrise as I compulsively turned the pages. BAD AUTHOR, NO BIKKIT! But I don't think it'll work at all in isolation. Recommended if you've read the previous books, but not otherwise.
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