The plot is episodic, parts of it having previously been published as short stories, and shows Ender in the years immediately after he left Earth, living first on the planet Shakespeare and then on the planet Ganges. It expands on events summarized in the epilogue of Ender's Game, and also follows up a plot strand from the Ender's Shadow side series.
This book contains examples of:
- Arc Welding: Ender in Exile is described in the afterword as both a "midquel" to Ender's Game and a sequel to Shadow of the Giant.
- Avenging the Villain: The antagonist of the Ganges storyline is Randall Firth, who believes himself to be the son of Achilles de Flandres, the Big Bad of Ender's Shadow.
- Babies Ever After/Babies Make Everything Better: What Alessandra's mother believes, and why she wants the two of them to go to a colony world: They can marry colonists in need of wives and have kids.
- The Chessmaster: The opening chapter showcases the Wiggin family's chessmaster talents, as used on each other, except for Ender, who doesn't appear in that chapter, though when he does show up, he gets to show off his ability to manipulate others as well.
- Deadpan Snarker: All over the place. Mazer gets in a good one, though:When they asked about Ender's violence, and whether that made it hard to train him, Mazer turned to the judges and said, "I'm sorry, I misunderstood, isn't this a court martial? Aren't we all soldiers here, trained to commit acts of violence?"
- Kill Me Now, or Forever Stay Your Hand: When Randall attacks Ender, Ender refuses to fight back. Randall does decide he doesn't really want to kill Ender, but not before Ender is seriously injured.
- My Death Is Just the Beginning: Two characters both come up with a plan to expose their rival for "who he really is" that involves being beaten to death (or almost) by the other character and recording a video of it. And try to do this to each other at the same time.
- Patchwork Story: Ender in Exile stitches together several pre-existing short stories with some new story and narrative.
- Pronoun Trouble: Graff does a pretty good job of tiptoeing around pronouns when talking about Demosthenes, but naturally, Ender sees through it anyway.
- Sleeper Starship: People can be put into stasis for interstellar journeys. Weirdly this technology never gets mentioned anywhere else in the franchise with only Time Dilation to let people survive the journeys.