When I finished the first three books in Charles Stross's Merchant Princes series, I was quite happy. Three books, something more than a thousand pages, and a satisfying stop to the action. I didn't know at the time that those books were originally meant to be one door-stopper of a book! And that that doorstopper was to be the first of a trilogy! Or that I was reading fantasy, despite the machine guns, fax machines and cellular telephones! So, along came the fourth book in the series, The Merchant's War, and I grabbed and read it about as fast as I could. Great action, great characters and no bleepin' end. I railed on that in this blog back in February of last year. About that time, I found out the grand publishing plan for this series by reading Charlie's blog. So, I waited until I had both the fifth AND sixth books in the series before opening the cover to The Revolution Business, which I reviewed four days ago.
And now, the review of The Trade of Queens, sixth book in the published series, the third chapter of the original second book. Good stuff. Not GREAT stuff, but certainly worth the time invested.
Oh, you want some details?
Like the ending to Clan Corporate, this book serves as a good stopping place. Were there never to be a concluding trilogy to this story, I could live with that. I can dream up my own next chapters if it comes to that. There are no cliff-hangers taunting me. At the same time, I hope Stross gets back to finishing this series cuz I see sooooo much potential in the opening up of new worlds beyond those of New Britain, Gruinmarkt and the doppelganger USA in this book. Aliens even.
We won't be seeing much of Gruinmarkt in any further books. Carpet-bombing with atomic bombs doesn't tend to leave much in the way of characters to build stories around. With most of the good progressive part of the Clan now ensconced in New Britain's world, Gruinmarkt is going to be nothing more than a faded memory. That and a new oil-drilling platform for the Black Ops dominated US that isn't quite the same as the real US. Well, unless you truly think The Shrub's Cardinal Richelieu is STILL running the country. There are more out-there fantasies, of course.
Things move fairly quickly in The Trade of Queens. The rabbit hole to New Britain is quickly confirmed as being needed after the development of biomechanical means to world-walk is developed in record time by the US-dominated world we sort of live in. The BOOM! promised from the ending of The Revolution Business expands geometrically as inept politicians find slap-fighting with bombs gets people killed. Miriam Beckstein leads the Clan to New Britain and a new way of working and living and the two main bad guys die, more or less, off-stage and almost as collateral damage. No refreshing face-to-face ending with a bullet between the beady little eyes. Just a heart attack and a building collapse. It's about the only real clanger in the book. No satisfaction at particular deaths.
And, of course, there are deaths aplenty. Stross doesn't mind killing off characters that have been around for a few books. But he does spare others. And how can you not love a book that ends on a marriage proposal?