Our heroine, Festina Ramos, Lieutenant Admiral of Outward Fleet Explorer Corps, is back!
Explorer Edward York is on an Outward Fleet spaceship, the Willow, when it attempts to transport a dangerous non-sentient being out of its solar system. As the Willow crosses out of the system, suddenly everyone aboard ship except for Edward drops dead, executed by the League of Peoples. Edward, while physically perfect, is a little lacking in the brains department. He survived because he didn't know what was going on.
Alone on a dead ship, Edward explores and finds the dangerous non-sentient: a dead Hive-Queen from Mandasar, the planet where he just spent 20 years in exile.
Edward is rescued from pirates by a fellow Explorer, and soon enough Edward, Festina, and a family of Mandasars are trying to figure out the mystery of the dead queen. To complicate matters, Edward is the son of High Admiral Alexander York, who holds Edward responsible for the death of Samantha, Edward's sister. Admiral York wants his son to stay lost. And the Mandasar home planet has descended into civil war.
The story moves along briskly and the characters are likable and amusing. The universe Gardner has created is well thought out, and tries to avoid space opera cliches.