I read these two books back to back and they easily combine to form one large story. I’ll review them together. These books (the “Migration Duology”) form an origin story to the entire Liaden Universe. They literally explain how the universe came into being.
The story starts in the misty depths of history when a group of humans began genetically modifying themselves. They continually modified themselves until they no longer remotely resembled humanity or considered themselves human. These “Sheriekas” then decided to cleanse the universe of every less perfect being, destroying entire star systems as they went.
Humanity fought back, though generally not very successfully. The novels focus on two characters: M Jela Granthor’s Guard and Cantra Yos Phelium. They become reluctant partners and eventual lovers. Together with a sentient, telepathic Tree (possibly the best part of the story) and the dramliza (escaped creations of the Sheriekas), they fight a desperate rear guard action. They eventually succeed in creating an entirely new universe for humanity to escape to, one where the Sheriekas can’t reach them.
These books were okay but I didn’t feel like they really fit in with the rest of the Liaden Universe novels. I had a hard time caring about a war that occurred thousands of years before the rest of the series—and that was fought in a completely separate universe.
I kept thinking “so what?” and wondering what impact all of this really had on the rest of the series. (It seemed like a tale that would be an interesting origin myth for Clan Korval but not something that would affect ongoing events in the new universe.) Additionally, the plot events and relationships reminded me a lot of events and characters in both Conflict of Honors and Agent of Change.
The novels were fun but seemed both somewhat pointless and somewhat of a retread of earlier novels. I think they’re good to read if you’re really interested in the origin of some of the recurring themes of the series. I wouldn’t start reading the series with these novels though.