The Traders’ War (A Merchant Princes Omnibus Volume 2) by Charles Stross (book review).

‘The Traders’ War’ is a re-edited and repackaged release featuring the two middle books of the ‘Merchant Princes’ series, ‘The Clan Corporate’ and ‘The Merchants War’ by Charles Stross. They were originally released as six shorter novels but have now been put back in the longer novel format.


Miriam Beckstein is living a double life. Well, she was but now it’s more of a cooped up, stashed away with no hope of rescue life. Brought up in Brooklyn, Miriam enjoyed her job as an investigative journalist but got a little too close for comfort to something big and got fired. But that isn’t the main problem, as it just so happens her beloved mother is royalty from a parallel universe. Who knew? Miriam passes between the worlds and discovers she is a highly prized princess and, for a short period, is allowed a long leash but, when she pulls to hard on it, is locked down and in line for an advantageous royal marriage. It’s just not advantageous to her.

If things couldn’t get worse, they do when agent Mike Fleming, from the real USA, arrives in time to get involved in the next stage of the war. Meeting Miriam again is good for him. He’s an old flame but, for her, the flame has kind of fizzled out already. Mike’s trip to the other side is revelatory and he starts to question his own agency and government.

In this novel, we are already aware that the locations are three worlds. The USA in our world, the world of the Merchant Princes which is in a parallel universe to ours that is still in the medieval period. The Merchant Princes, known as the Clan, are also Miriam’s family have made their money by smuggling and provision of services to people from our world including drug running through their own territory. Only certain of the inhabitants of that Earth are able to move between worlds and this has created great wealth alongside great jealousy. Miriam is also able to travel to the third parallel world where she runs a business and makes new friends and doesn’t have a problem over her royal connections.

I’ve revised my opinion of these books and it seems Stross has heavily revised them so they sit comfortably in the three longer novels. I enjoyed them as a cracking adventure story. There is plenty to get your teeth into with some really big ideas and a good finish. It’s the characters who seem to lose out as there is a depressing thud in my mind when they have their strings cut at the end of the book’. I appreciate this is part two of three but I went on to read part three and still felt the same. Maybe I’m missing something but I wanted more from this. I don’t expect a Mills And Boon ending but I wanted some things to be resolved that weren’t so in the end I was a bit disappointed.

Sue Davies

October 2014

(pub: TOR UK/Macmillan. 610 page small enlarged paperback. Price: £ 9.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-4472-3762-4)

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