1n case you don't know, Merchant Princes is six part book series by Charles Stross which was marketed in the US as fantasy but is basically pure alternate history science fiction series. In my opinion, Merchant Princes was one of the most innovative series published in the last ten years or so, but despite the fantastic premise, the latter books were, to the never ending frustration of everyone involved, very uneven. As Charles Stross himself repeatedly explained in numerous posts on his blog, this was partly due to publishers not willing to publish the series in the shape and size in which it was originally planned. Enter Tor UK, and finally we are in position to see Merchant Princes in it's full glory.
As you may have gathered from my lengthy introduction, The Bloodline Feud is not your ordinary, of the shelf, omnibus. Even though the book states that it collects the first two installments of Merchant Princess, the truth is that Stross took upon himself the gargantuan task of re-editing this huge series, in the process making it much more streamlined and enjoyable. So basically, The Bloodline Feud collects The Family Trade and The Hidden Family but better.
If you don't know by now, The Bloodline Feud deals with Miriam Beckstein. Miriam is a successful reporter who discovers huge money-laundering operation and loses her job in the process. Suddenly she is burdened with death threats but by accident she escapes all this by going somewhere unimaginable - to alternate timeline where USA is still stuck in medieval times. Miriam discovers that her mother (and in turn, she as well) is part of family whose genetic make-up enables them to travel between timelines using particular type of illustration. Family is using this ability to create huge drug pushing network across the entire present day USA by using medieval world to transport drugs and jumping to and fro to deliver them. To top it all, Miriam learns that she is, in fact, Lady Helge and that she is expected to follow rules and, if possible, give birth to as many children as she can. Miriam, being Miriam, naturally has other ideas, discovers the third timeline where USA is in Victorian time and where another clan of the family lives, and gives her best at establishing trade between different timelines by dealing in technology and patents, instead of drugs.
The first two books in Merchant Princes deal mainly with worldbuilding and setting up the rules for what is to come but what a world it is. Stross deals with even the tinniest details, and it is pleasure to learn mechanics behind everything. Some of the things Miriam does are simply genius, and if ever I end up in alternate timeline I'll be definitely following up some of her ideas.
To conclude The Bloodline Feud finally brings home the fact that we always suspected – that Merchant Princes is probably Stross' finest work. I would recommend it to everyone looking after clever and innovative read.
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