Another tale of the Three Kings (Balshazzar's Serpent, 2000), habitable moons of a giant planet far off in space in a location known to few and, apparently, inhabited by several alien species. A century after the action of the previous installment, a space salvage crew runs into a voracious, highly intelligent alien on a lost colony planet—and barely escapes with their lives. Broke and desperate, they're inclined to listen when approached by slimy, megarich impresario Norman Sanders. He plans to send them to the Three Kings system, the source of weird, brain-stimulating, immensely valuable Magi's Stones. Sanders supplies the expedition with secret navigational coordinates and a floating robot camera named Eyegor. (There's so little plot here, it's impossible not to give it away; if you don't want to know what happens, skip to the last line.) Arriving in the Three Kings system, our heroes discover that Karl Woodward and his flock still survive on paradisiacal Balshazzar, though they're unable to leave. Bypassing cold Kaspar, they land on highly volcanic, storm-battered Melchior and discover a mother lode of Magi's Stones whose mental effects drive them mad. Eyegor steals their hoard of stones and heads for home, abandoning the survivors to the hostile planet.
Colorful twiddling: Chalker fans might while away an hour or two in anticipation of a payoff at some future point.