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Crescent Blues Book ViewsImage:three and a half moon gifAce Books (Paperback), ISBN 0-44100837-2
Gallantine Hazard parlayed an extraordinary talent for acquiring other people's best kept secrets into a wealth of information that makes him one of the most powerful men in eastern Chaldus. As Brandt Karrelian, Hazard invested the profits of his trade in secrets into a nifty little electrical generator company. Now the revenues from this legitimate enterprise threaten to turn the world's greatest spy into a respectable businessman.

Book: Robert s Stone, Hazard's PriceTalk about a fate worse than death! The pomp and paunch of unrelieved prosperity bores Hazard past the point of recklessness. But even so, he refuses to become the pawn of Madh, an entirely too slick magician who promises Hazard the moon in return for a handful of murders.

Madh's attempt to hire Hazard as an assassin enrages the former spy. Gallantine Hazard killed on occasion, but he never murdered. Hazard clutches that rag of honor tight, because ultimately it's the only thing that separates him from the human scum he preys upon.

But Hazard's honor means nothing to Madh, who hires a far less particular assassin to mimic Hazard's style. Soon Hazard finds himself accused of murdering the former chief ministers of Chaldus, targeted by Chaldus's best -- and worst -- intelligence agents, and drawn into a worldwide conspiracy to awake the magic of the ancients.

The world of Brandt Karrelian and his generators blends magic and Industrial Age technology, but that wasn't always the case. Not so many hundred years ago, unimaginably powerful magic almost tore the world apart. A spell called "The Binding" staved off the complete destruction of the planet, barely. But the Binding cost the world most of its magic. Someone or something refuses to accept this loss and schemes to unleash the full power of magic on the unsuspecting world, regardless of who dies in the process.

The most engaging series opener since Laurell K. Hamilton's Guilty Pleasures, Hazard's Price beguiles with its witty mix of steampunk ingenuity and challenged magic. Stone skillfully introduces a large cast of appealing characters who promise to wear well over the course of many books. Naturally Hazard, the guttersnipe uncomfortable with making good, stands out. But so do Princess Cyrintha Jurin of Yndor, Chaldus's top spy Taylor Ash, Ash's once and future spymaster Barr Aston, and the enigmatic mage Tarem Selod.

I can't wait for the December release of Borne Upon Dark Waters, the next book in the series. Although Stone wraps his first fantastic adventure in fine style, he leaves more than enough loose ends to keep his readers clamoring for more.

Jean Marie Ward

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