The Family Trade
|Cover artist||Paul Youll|
|Series||The Merchant Princes|
|Genre||Alternate history, Science Fiction|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover & Paperback)|
|LC Class||PR6119.T79 F36 2004|
|Followed by||The Hidden Family|
The Family Trade is the first book of Charles Stross' alternate history, science fiction series The Merchant Princes. It placed fifth in the annual Locus Poll for best fantasy novel as well as winning the Sidewise Award for Alternate History a year later (as part of Stross's "Merchant Princes" sequence).
The first novel introduces the reader to journalist Miriam Beckstein, who finds herself in a parallel world in which her extended family holds power.
Miriam's adoptive mother gives her a shoebox filled with items that belonged to Miriam's birth mother, a Jane Doe who died mysteriously when Miriam was only a baby. Among other items, Miriam finds a locket. Inside is a design not unlike a Celtic knot, and when she focuses on it, she is transported to a parallel world that never developed beyond the Dark Ages—except for the men on horses who try to kill her with machine guns.
Miriam quickly finds herself caught up in the feuds of her estranged family, which calls itself the Clan. The Clan has used the genetic ability to travel back and forth between the two worlds to build a lucrative import/export trade. However, one of their main sources of income is transporting drugs into and out of the United States which bothers Miriam for ethical and other reasons.
Miriam finds a kindred soul in Roland, a distant relation who would also like to be free of the Clan's machinations.
The second book in the series is The Hidden Family (2005); these two were originally written as one novel. They are followed by The Clan Corporate (2006), the first part of the second story. On June 3, 2006, Stross announced "I just handed in #4 and should be starting on #5 in another couple of months. Nope, it's not a trilogy." The Merchants' War (#4), The Revolution Business (#5, 2009), and The Trade of Queens (#6) were published in 2007, 2009, and 2010 respectively. In January 2013 Tor Books announced a new Merchant Princes trilogy.