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The Hidden Family

(The Merchant Princes #2)

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  3,893 ratings  ·  143 reviews
The second volume of Charles Stross's thrill-a-minute saga of multiple worlds

Miriam, a hip tech journalist from Boston, discovered her alternate world relatives in The Family Trade, and with them an elite identity she didn't know was hers. Now, in order to avoid a slippery slope down to an unmarked grave, Miriam, known as Lady Helge to the Family, starts applying modern bu
Mass Market Paperback, 309 pages
Published May 2nd 2006 by Tor Fantasy (first published 2005)
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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  3,893 ratings  ·  143 reviews

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Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
The first book in this series started as a refreshing take on the world-walking motif, in which instead of people just being kings in a magic world and then occasionally coming home, they exploit arbitrage opportunities, bringing goods back and forth. It was an interesting spin. Unfortunately, it ended abruptly, without making much sense or wrapping up much of anything. (There's one set of characters, apparently intended for a later part of the series, who show up, have a conversation, and never ...more
Wing Kee
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
2.5, it’s aight.

World: The world building is a bit more detailed this time around with actual naming of the worlds making the differences and the travel much easier to follow as a reader. The new pieces are interesting and the differences are what make this book fun. I think the world building aspect of this series is the strength of the series. The deeper detail into the clan and the working pieces of it and the lore and history really made the world building a lot more weighty which is good.

Megan Baxter
Mar 24, 2017 rated it liked it
I picked up the digital copy of this for free from's Book Club, and it included the first book in the series as well. As I was feeling lazy and didn't want to figure out where the middle was, exactly, I reread The Family Trade before going on to read The Hidden Family.

Note: The rest of this review has been withheld due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Kara Babcock
I rediscovered this while sorting out my overflow bin of books to read. I hesitated, because since buying it years ago, I’ve learned that the series has been re-edited and republished in doorstopper form, apparently to its benefit as a story. Still, it was there, and I wanted something not too heavy to read.

The Hidden Family picks up right where The Family Trade left off (literally, because they used to be one book). Whereas I was impressed with The Family Trade, I’m less enamoured of The Hidden
Richard Derus
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Rating: 4* of five

Not quite as devastatingly fresh to me, so down a half-star.
Jul 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Jumping straight into this book the second I finished "The Family Trade" felt particularly natural. Throughout "The Family Trade", I felt like I shouldn't be as far into the book as I was--it still felt like it was just getting rolling when I was less than 100 pages from the end. This turns out to have a lot to do with the changes Charles Stross made to this series between when he started writing it and when he sold it. I learned in an interview he gave Locus magazine that he'd originally planne ...more
Joseph Teller
This book adds some interesting twists to the setting of the Merchant Princes, and expands on the main character, her family/clan, the relationships and business activities.

It shows the main character's quick adaptation and ability to apply an outsider's viewpoint to understanding the economical problems and an approach to them that is new and unique while dealing with assassins and other problems.

The last chapter of the book is its weak point. There's a climactic leap of events at the end that
Jul 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
In The Merchant Princes series, Charles Stross is demonstrating his virtuoso technique with an intensity I haven’t seen since the first time I read Michael Moorcock. [Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read the first volume, please stop reading this review now.] The Hidden Family continues the story of Miriam Beckstein, aka Countess Helge Thorold-Hjorth, who discovered in The Family Trade (Volume 1) that her birth mother had been murdered by a faction from another dimension. When she encounters a cru ...more
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Since I couldn't go to sleep until I finished this the five stars seemed necessary.
Book One introduced us to the mechanism involved in "world walking" and this volume takes us into the way everything works in the two - and now three - worlds.
It really pays to pay attention while reading because the story moves very quickly and it is easy to miss details. I certainly never studied economics so the explanations as to how trade works is very interesting. We have three world situations:
"our" world
Nicholas Whyte[return][return]Enjoyed it. Our heroine from the first book has a business plan, an economic model, three parallel universes to trade between, and a bunch of enemies out to kill her. Some vivid scene-setting, including of the weather; one nice little touch:[return][return]"I don't know much about English history, but it's got this civil war in the sixteen forties, goes on and on about some dude called the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. I looked him up in E ...more
Chris "Stu"
Nov 23, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
Stross clearly has some Marx education in his background; a lot of his novels very definitely bring on the way your situation and economics affect how you live your life. Often times this is sci fi economics: how does the ability to travel through space change the way we live, or sentient computers, or something like this.

This is his trip into the fantasy world, where he creates a plausible economics of the ability to jump between dimensions.

Don't worry, it's a lot more exciting than that sounds
Sep 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
Well, more of the same, that is, not really worth reading. Scott stopped reading after this one, and I think he made the better choice.

We're already struggling to assimilate information about two worlds and Clan politics, and then this novel goes and adds a third world. While Miriam's actions there are fairly interesting, I just couldn't figure out why Stross had to add this third dimension. It seems to me there was more than enough of interest in the interaction of the first two worlds he intro
The fun continues. My brother and I disagree about both Miriam and Roland. I think it isn't quite believable that Miriam makes the perfect technology choices outside of her wheelhouse, biotechnology. My brother, a freelance journalist, thinks it is credible. He thinks Roland is out of a romance novel. I think he has been in DC too long.
Olga and Brill continue becoming more interesting; they make a wonderful foil for how emotionally clueless Miriam can be. Her mother's emotional relationships we
Baal Of
Jan 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Decent story with good characters. Miriam is nicely complex as a female heroine without being the absurd action hero/ninja that is common in a lot of fantasy fiction. The world building is interesting, if not as imaginative as a lot of Stross's other work. I'm impressed that he killed off a pretty major supporting character near the end. This series is not my favorite work by Stross, but it's enjoyable enough that I'll continue since I've already got the books sitting on my shelf.
Aug 23, 2008 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Helen Ladewig
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Read book 3 first by mistake so I read it out of order - still a good yarn. Have ordered the next 3 books from the library - can't wait to read them.
Aug 29, 2019 added it
Shelves: fantasy
Miriam forges relationships outside of genetic lines, the “family braids” that govern so much of Clan politics, and begins to realize that things, and people, aren’t always what they seem — this is only to be expected in a fictive universe that’s reminiscent of a combination of Zelazny’s Amber series, and The Godfather. But Stross does several things better than Zelazny did in Amber. First, Stross has female characters that are believable women, rather than bizarre Heinleinian like female animat ...more
Leonardo Etcheto
Apr 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Things get complicated and there is a lot of drama as it all starts going pearshaped.
Matthias betrays as a simple misunderstanding many years ago has become a blood feud that costs 1,000 lives. The Lee family thinks they were abandoned, when in fact they got the knot wrong and go to the wrong world.
Multiverse really starts to kick in as Miriam is the first to figure out there is a third world. Her plan to smuggle knowledge rather than drugs or gold is pretty clever. The implementation is tricky
Jun 09, 2017 rated it really liked it
Charles Stross is a pretty good fantasy writer, it turns out - but an even better steampunk one. The worldwalking plot device is an awesome mechanic for crossover novels - he did the modern day corporate crime and drug trade, he did the medieval royal court intrigue and swords, serfs and secrets... and now he's got a hardcore bona fide alt history steampunk world complete with consumptive revolutionaries, airships, bobbies and literally steam-powered cars.
Can it get more awesome?
Yes it can, wi
Karl Schaeffer
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I enjoy reading books by C. Stross. His ideas and world building are excellent. He writes in an easy to read style and communicates complicated ideas very well. I missed this series initially, now it's out of print. Got to read #2, via an interlibrary loan. The other books in the series are unavailable locally, so I'm casting my net further afield. Miriam is learning about the Clan, her place in it and another parallel universe not well known to the Clan, and where the USA never successfully bro ...more
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I somehow liked this less than its predecessor, even though it had all the makings of a smash novel. There's a whole series of surprises -- much of what the protagonist and reader were led to believe isn't quite true. Most of these landed well.

Part of the problem is that the story has several semi-connected arcs. The protagonist has adventures in separate worlds and these feel like three stories that don't quite cohere. The antagonists seem both competent, lucky, and evil to an extent that wasn'
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Stross, Charles. The Hidden Family Merchant Princes No. 2. Tor, 2005.
In this second volume of The Merchant Princes, most of the action moves to a third alternate universe called New Britain, in which neither the French nor the American revolutions occurred. It has developed a nineteenth-century level of technology but is hampered by its internal politics and its never-ending disputes with the French. When Miriam Beckstein shows up with ideas about expanding her family business by jump-starting t
Anton Hammarstedt
Setting presentation, design and originality (how cool is the setting?): 3
Setting verisimillitude and detail (how much sense does the setting make?): 4
Plot design, presentation and originality (How well-crafted was the plot, in the dramaturgic sense?): 3
Plot and character verisimillitude (How much sense did the plot and motivations make? Did events follow from motivations?): 4
Characterization and character development: 3
Character sympatheticness: 3
Prose: 2
Page turner factor: 3
Mind blown factor:
Mark Edlund
Jun 25, 2018 rated it liked it
Science fiction series - The second book in The Merchant Princes series where Stross tries to out Amber the author Zelazny. Entertaining and interesting as a young business journalist tries to bring modern business practices to alternate, medieval worlds. Lots of twists and good detail.
Pharmacy references - mentions the king's apothecary.
Canadian references - mention of Canada's role in the Seven Year's War and as a source of chrysolite to make brake pads.
-cookie Doughten
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Part two of the Family Trade was just as good as the first book. the intrigue was good hard to understand at some parts . Miriam wants to stop the Family from dealing drugs find better things to sell and deal. She does . but it cost her.I do not want to give the plot away the romance is nice.too.She is also trying to bring female roles up to date in the other worlds .
Shhhhh Ahhhhh
Aug 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So, when I predicted trouble a little over halfway through this, I did not consider that it would be that kind of trouble. I thought sure the council would reject her proposal and the internal battles would continue. Now, I'm a little more interested in the next book, since this one ended on a happy note. Necessarily, that means the source of conflict must be something new.
Dec 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hoopla, fantasy, audio, 2019
I love how Stross can take something as mundane as economics (which I loath) and turn it into something interesting. Not as intriguing as the first book in the series, but still a good read. I think there were more plot holes to be filled as the series continues. Stross makes strong and smart characters.
A'Llyn Ettien
Aug 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Picks right up where the last one left off, with our parallel-universe-traveling investigative journalist/savvy businesswoman dodging assassination attempts and navigating political and social jungles in various worlds.
Sep 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked the 2nd book better than the first, it seemed to go a lot faster. We had a lot of reveals in this book which helped explain some of the annoying loose ends that were dropped in the first book.
Carlos Scheidegger
Feb 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fast-paced plot with a healthy dose of Serious Ideas. It seems like this one is largely a setup for the rest of the series, but it's a short enough book that it's totally fine.

This is Stross exactly as you'd expect him to be. If you liked Merchant Princes #1, I think you'll like this one as well.
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Charles David George "Charlie" Stross is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. His works range from science fiction and Lovecraftian horror to fantasy.

Stross is sometimes regarded as being part of a new generation of British science fiction writers who specialise in hard science fiction and space opera. His contemporaries include Alastair Reynolds, Ken MacLeod, Liz Williams and Richard Morgan.


Other books in the series

The Merchant Princes (6 books)
  • The Family Trade (The Merchant Princes, #1)
  • The Clan Corporate (The Merchant Princes, #3)
  • The Merchants' War (The Merchant Princes, #4)
  • The Revolution Business (The Merchant Princes, #5)
  • The Trade of Queens (The Merchant Princes, #6)

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“What better way to weaken a powerful enemy than to get it fighting itself?” 1 likes
“Doesn’t the idea of, like, completely wiping out the culture of your own people worry you? I mean, so much of what we’ve got here is such complete shit—” She stopped. Brill’s eyes were sparkling—with anger, not amusement. “You really think so? Go live in a one-room hut for a couple of years, bearing illiterate brats half of whom will die before they’re five! Without a fancy toilet, or even a thunder-mug to piss in each morning. Go do that, where the only entertainment is once a week going to the temple where some fat stupid priest invokes the blessings of Sky Father and his court on your heads and prays that the harvest doesn’t fail again like it did five years ago, when two of your children starved to death in front of your eyes. Then tell me that your culture’s shit!” Miriam tried to interrupt: “Hey, what about—” Brill steamed right on. “Shut up. Even the children of the well-off—like me—grow up living four to a room and wearing hand-me-downs. We are married off to whoever our parents think will pay best bride-price. Because we’re members of the outer families we don’t die of childbed fever—not since the Clan so graciously gave us penicillin tablets and morphine for the pain—but we get to bear child after child because it’s our duty to the Clan! Are you insane, my lady? Or merely blind? And it’s better for us in the families than for ordinary women, better by far. Did you notice that within the Clan you had rights? Or that outside the Clan, in the ordinary aristocracy, you didn’t? We have at least one ability that is as important, more important, than what’s between our legs: another source of status. But those ordinary peasants you feel such guilt for don’t have any such thing. There’s a better life awaiting me as a humble illegal immigrant in this world than there is as a lady-in-waiting to nobility in my own.” 0 likes
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