The Clan Corporate
Stross undertook the series of The Merchant Princes in order to have a very big story to tell, and this third volume of the big story is caught in the middle. It can't have the joys of introducing the new world, because after two volumes we can assume that introductions have been made and we've all got something to drink. But we don't have the joys of resolution -- not yet, at any rate. Everything has to hang on incident, and on our interest in the characters.
That's enough: Miriam Beckstein, who is the Countess Helga when she's visiting her other home, is good company for a summer afternoon.