Charlie Stross, The Merchant Princes series:
Not one then, but two trilogies. Not to worry, these techno-thrillers with multiverse hopping are the most engrossing novels ever and you'll soon regret that there aren't, actually, more of them.
To be noted: the review doesn't contain spoilers despite the fact that I review both trilogies.
Miriam is a journalist in the USA, a normal citizen with normal concerns. Until she inherits a locket with a strange design which brings her in a parallel universe. The society there is feudal, with Middle-Ages tech, except for a family who can also cross into Miriam's universe. This family got rich thanks to drug smuggling across worlds. The king doesn't like it, and the F.B.I. doesn't either. Miriam who learns that she belongs to this family will only pour oil on the fire by trying to bring change.
The first trilogy has some flaws. For instance, I'm really not fond of the insta love in the first volume. On the other hand, the flaws are really minor and you find yourself soon engrossed in a fast paced plot with endearing characters. Miriam is of course a highlight, but all of her allies are equally endearing (bar one, see insta love above). Her fight against the patriarchal society of the Gruinmark is hindered by complex politics and endanger her life. Politics become even more complex when they start involving our world, since the family's drug smuggling brings the wrath of the USA upon them. Add to that a few explorers who will discover a mysterious dome in yet another world.
The second trilogy (now complete) introduces us to a new generation, although the previous characters we have come to know and love are still here, now in their 40s and probably too old for this shit. The characters will have to deal with the consequences of what was set in motion in the first trilogy, with more political games involving spies, a coup, and former sleeper agents from East Germany. To say nothing of the mysterious dome which is still there, but probably not for long.
The second trilogy provides all the answers you might still have left from the first, still adds to it, and brings a very satisfying conclusion for all the characters.
These trilogies go beyond action scenes with a fast pace. They are also a mordant satire of the USA foreign politics, particularly in the second trilogy. Stross holds no punches here and offers a deconstruction which is always on point.
Unlike a lot of multiverses novels which only play with one or two alternate realities, Stross brings us to more, offering thus more than the simple feud between the USA and a powerful family.
As always with Stross, you'll find some military tech (if you're not into that, do as I do and skip the descriptions!) but also some delicious (and sometimes deliciously nasty) cultural observations (my favourites include the behaviour of the passengers and staff in the German plane in Invisible Sun).
The Merchant Princes / Empire Games trilogies will be the perfect books to curl up with during a holiday. They'll take you elsewhere while still critically talking about our world and you'll meet some unforgettable characters. Prepare some snacks, switch off the phone, and step into another universe.
If you've liked The Merchant Princes / Empire Games, you may also like
All reviews are spoiler free unless explicitly stated otherwise.
I only review stories I have liked even if my opinion may be nuanced. It doesn't apply for the "Novels published before 1978" series of blog posts.
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