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The Merchants War (The Merchant Princes book 4) by Charles Stross

01/09/2008. Contributed by Sue Davies

Buy The Merchants War in the USA - or Buy The Merchants War in the UK

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pub: TOR/Forge. 336 page hardback. Price: $24.95 (US), $28.95 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-1671-4.

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Miriam is in big trouble but it's better than being dead. There has been a major realignment of power within the Family and she is out of the loop. Her family are part of the Clan. They are world walkers who are able to travel between different realities and have used this ability to gain power in each of the different Earths.

When her desperate escape leads Miriam back to New London, she must rely on the mysterious Erasmus. First, she must negotiate the rough streets and make an ally of necessity. Life is cheap in this alternate world. Her life hangs by the slenderest of threads. She has not been forgotten neither and while civil war breaks out in the Gruinmarket world of the Clan, Miriam is still top of the retrieval list.

Mike Fleming, a US government agent, caught up in the power struggle in Miriam's home world, watches in despair as his fellow agents are cut down. The mysterious Olga rescues him but there are strings attached to his return to the real United States.

As the action moves between the different worlds and the protagonists, it sets itself a challenge to maintain our interest. It works a little but I don't feel attached to anyone or the outcome. A series of chess pieces are moved around the board building up to yet another episode. The episodic nature has to be satisfying as a standalone and I don't think this is strong enough to make me gasp for the next one. I need to care about the characters and, most of the time, I don't. There is good background description and occasionally I felt Miriam was more than just a few words on the page but with no solid relationships there is little to compel me to read this as a series.

Sue Davies

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