After the evens in The Relic War, Daniel, Jasper the penguin anatom, and his friends are back. On Oota Mheen, Daniel has found a wrecked ship named the Coldstar, and wonders what its connection is to him, since he doesn't know who his parents are. Unfortunately, the Tarafands invade, forcing Daniel to flee with Ionica. The two find a number of children on the planet that must be evacuated, and narrowly manage to get them to safety. Alioth is not happy that the Truth Seekers were out and about without permission. They return to the Seventh Summit and go back to classes, but Daniel soon receives a mysterious message that claims knowledge of the Coldstar and his parents. He is instructed to meet on the planet Juba, which happens to be Ionica's home. She hasn't been back for a long time due to a family tragedy, but agrees to accompany him back. It is the festival of Luminara, which remembers the destruction of Earth and celebrates peace, but it's anything but peaceful once they arrive. Ionica's father, Dimas Lux, claims that Daniel knew Ionica's sister when he was a Sinja slave in the mines, and Daniel has vague memories of this. Many of the parents in Ionica's world have lot their children to the Sinja and will do anything to get them back, even if it destoys Juba. Will Daniel be able to help them retrieve the children and save the planet?
The plight of the children stolen by the Sinja and enslaved in the mines continues, and Daniel's desire to find out more about his life is understandable, especially when he is confronted with evidence by Dimas Lux. The continuing threat for them, as well as the constant battles with the Tarafand, keep this book moving along despite these more personal quests.
For some reason, this reminded me of the cantina scene in the first Star Wars series; there seemed to be a lot of different looking characters from different backgrounds, and there was always an air of something just about to happen. Science fiction fans who want lots of intricate details will enjoy this next installment in Daniel's quest to find his past.