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VINE VOICEon 29 July 2010
A really gripping ending to this complex and entertaining series. As the civil war between the Gruinmarkt world walkers grows and extends into both "our" reality and the mangled empire of New Britain the very existence of the world walkers is under threat and their own factions insist on making that threat much more real. Driving the plot are brutal attacks on Washington DC and the public unveiling of the ability to cross dimensions which lead to a truly extravagant and utterly ruthless response from the new US President with his very definite approach to dealing with "unknown unknowns".

Most of the series' plot threads are sew up nicely but the series ends with no definite closure, the clan are still very much exposed and their traditional way of life extinguished. I await new volumes set in the same universes which hopefully will expand the clan's future.

Top notch stuff.
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"Trade of Queens" is the last book in a series of six, the Merchant Princes (though I suspect if you're interested in this book you will already know that) and it's hard to review without reviewing the series as a whole. So I'll get that out of the way: in my view the last three, this, The Merchants' War (Merchant Princes) and The Revolution Business (Merchant Princes) have been the best, with The Clan Corporate (Merchant Princes 3) something of a low point. The author, Charles Stross, explains on his website that the original plan was for three Big Books which the publisher insisted on dividing up - Clan Corporate is just the scene setting for the second Big Book. The third isn't written yet.

The narrative device underlying is that there are parallel instances of our world, which certain individuals have the inherited ability to cross between, and that in particular we have been "visited" by traders from a version of North America (the Gruinmarkt) where the Viking settlements took root, but there has been little progress since. This is the Clan (who make their living by exploiting their abilities to transport various, er, substances safe from the authorities). Stross introduced a rival tribe of "world walkers" in Book 2, alongside a third alternate world, a steampunk flavoured New Britain. In the earlier volumes he played with ideas about the development of the various worlds, and the reaction when those authorities discover what's been going on. We see much of this through the eyes of Miriam Beckstein, a descendent of the Clan who has been brought up in safe ignorance of its doings in our world.

Anyway, in the present volume, the pace of events, which built up in the last two, continues to be rapid, but there's a grim ending. The Clan is under threat, and its Stupid Faction insists on making the threat worse, leading to a terrible fate for the Gruinmarkt, mostly visited on those who did nothing wrong. The plotting is ingenious, with many (but not all) of the issues left hanging form previous books wrapped up (I was left a bit confused, I must admit, about the number and identity of the moles within the Clan. And patently, someone in the Clan was helping Egon, but who was it?)

This is a very satisfying ending to the series, leaving enough loose ends for more books (and I hope there are more). In particular, the dynamics of the situation in which the Clan is left are intriguing. They are not safe. They are surrounded by suspicious potential enemies. They will now have to earn a living, as worldwalking to the USA is not possible anymore. The situation has lots of possibilities and I'd hope that any sequels investigate those, as well as that ominous leaking door-to-another-dimension.
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on 3 April 2011
Sadly, this is the last book in this series. Most series end by running out of steam, their plots all worn out. This series, unusually, still has multiple plotlines left.

The core concept, which started out as a fantasy device, is a North American setting of alternate realities, which certain individuals can 'jump' between, when staring at a unique pattern for the destination reality. The 'World Walkers' from families with this ability use it to run illegal drug operations in one alternate reality that resembles contemporary America. There are two different 'crime' families, who fell out in a feud in times past. Miriam, the lead character, brought up in the American 'reality', is an heir, via her mother, to leadership of the main 'Family'.

She has essentially driven the plot throughout the series, as her American upbringing and original ideas continually grate against the conservative Family 'old guard'. Miriam discovers another reality, a British colony isolated by a powerful France, in which revolution against its failed monarchy is brewing. She creates new business here and makes a friend who ends up high in government after the revolution breaks. She even makes contact with the despised 'lost family'.

In this final book the Family old guard make their play. Despite deals with the corrupt US VP, they steal suitcase nukes and use them against Washington as a warning. The US though has researched alternate world jumping and cracked the science behind it. An attack to wipe out the Families is planned, with the added bonus of access to all the oil in the 'Texas' of the Family reality. Miriam and her supporters flee to the 'revolution' reality but bump into elements of the lost Family in league with a ruthless doctor who was running a hidden breeding program for world walkers. The only weak element of this book is how much it drops the reader into things: there are "info-dumps" but they are few and far between. Do not start reading here.

While plot threads are tied up, others could be opened by the use of other alternate Americas, discovered in this series but not explored. Even if no more books are ever forthcoming, this series would work well on television.
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on 24 October 2011
This series started with an interesting and original premise which the first book started to explore. However as it went on the series degenerates into a rather tiresome soap opera, in which plot is sacrificed for complexity, apparently for its own sake. The characters are not developed and become less and less credible. By the last book i'd frankly lost interest in them.
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on 28 June 2013
Read the whole Merchant Princes series, 6 books. Only problem is that the first 3 are Kindle books, the next 2 are paper backs and this the last was a cheap (£3.60) American hardback . Now waiting for what happened next?
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on 3 March 2012
As good as the other books in the series the tension builds & the plot lines come together well, but leave you wanting more! a great read
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on 6 August 2010
This, the sixth and last installment in the series, suffers from the same problems as the fifth book, and suffers from them in spades. It's very disappointing that such a good series should deteriorate like this. The politicking is still there (although perhaps not as much as the previous volume) but the silliness, culminating in nuclear carpet-bombing, is just so ridiculously over the top as to offend my sensibilities, even allowing for the fact that it's fiction and for dramatic suspension of disbelief.

I almost gave this just one star but it's just about pulled up to two by the fact that it's pretty much required reading if you've already got this far - just be prepared to be disappointed, even if you weren't disappointed (and you should have been) by the previous installment.

The end is somewhat intriguing and sets up more potential sequels, which may be improved by having had the obnoxious feudalism killed off along with all its incomprehensible politicking. There's a few interesting directions in which it could go, depending on which of the loose ends Stross decides to follow up on, if at all - on his blog he says "I'm not ruling out writing more books in that universe â" but I'm taking a couple of years of time out first, and if and when go back to there, it'll be with a new story and mostly new characters". Good, it could do with a partial reboot.
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on 24 May 2010
A true pity that Charles Stross has indicated that 6 books in the series are enough (for now). Wraps up the major plot lines, leaves enough open to keep you wanting more and satisfies the current story. Another excellent book.
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on 28 June 2010
This item was purchased for a third party who was very pleased with the secure packageing and speed of delivery.
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