Humanity once tried to rebel and throw off the yoke of the Chapalii, only to fail. The leader of the rebellion, Charles Soerensen, was ennobled to the rank of Duke (or Tai, in the Chapalii language), one of the highest ranks in their stratified society, only bowing to Princes and the Emperor himself. He was given two systems as his fief, the Dao Cee system with its newly raped for its resources planet of Odys, and the recently discovered Rhui system.
Rhui was unique, since one of its planets contained a species so like humans that they were genetically compatible, but at a much lower level of technology. To protect his "cousins" from the greed of the Chapalii, Charles interdicted the planet, allowing only minimal contact with the natives and the truth about their origins to be kept secret.
Tess Soerensen, Charles' sister, is a highly talented linguist who, while on a Chapalii vessel, discovers a plot to secretly visit the interdicted world. Stowing away on their shuttlecraft, she finds herself far from explored lands and thrown in the the Jaran, a nomadic people whose leader is slowly united their tribes and planning to conquer all the lands.
Meanwhile, Charles is slowly plotting rebellion against the Empire, determined to free humanity from their grip once and for all.
There are currently 4 novels in the series: Jaran (1992), An Earthly Crown (1993), His Conquering Sword (1993), and The Law of Becoming (1994). While the author has expressed her intent to finish the series at some point, nothing has been heard about it for almost 10 years.
These novels provide examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Karolla and Vasil, after they move off of Rhui. Karolla is stuck in the past and refuses to support her children's studies or seek modern medicine or counseling. Vasil is a severe narcissist and neglectful of his children, especially Valentin. Their combined neglect and ignorance lead to Valentin's life-threatening addiction to Nesh and, later, to Vasil killing him for not instantly obeying by physically pulling him away from a Nesh point.
- Alien Non-Interference Clause: The humans believe in this, but the Chapalii don't. Charles has interdicted Rhui, much to the confusion of the Empire, but he is working to introduce modern thinking as much as possible to the Rhuians, since he knows that some day soon, he'll have to lift the interdiction.
- Alliterative Name: Vera, Vasil, and Valentin Veselov.
- Benevolent Alien Invasion: Arguably. The chapalli brought the humans great advances in science and technology, but no place in their own government. Although Charles is a duke in the Empire, he has no direct control over his own species.
- Culture Clash: A major theme of the series. The humans misinterpret the Chapalii, the jaran and the khaja both consider each other barbarians, inhabitants of the different "khaja" kingdoms have profound enough differences to get into trouble, and the humans from Earth- most of whom had some warning what the Rhuian cultures were like- still don't know exactly how to act, and are often intrigued and horrified by turns by the cultures they're trying to live near.
- The Empire: The Chapalii Empire, naturally.
- Fantastic Slur: Humans sometimes call the Chapalii "chameleons," because their skin changes color according to their emotions- for example, violet signifies mortification.
- Fourth Date Marriage: Make that no date marriage. Diana Brooke-Holt and Anatoly Sakhalin are married before they've had a full conversation, and before they share more than a few words of a common language. At least everyone else realizes that this is reckless behavior on their part. Ilya predicts on the day of the celebration that it won't last, and he's right, as the marriage eventually ends in divorce.
- Immortality Begins at Twenty: Thanks to Chapalii medical technology, humans age until they reach maturity, then stay young until around 120 years of age, at which point their bodies shut down.
- La Résistance:
- The half-legendary Tai-en Mushai, a Chapalii duke who overthrew the original Empire.
- Matriarchy: In the Jaran culture, women hold all the political and social power except in two things: choice of marriage and war.
- Planetary Romance: Most of the original novel. In later novels, this is toned down as we see more of the technology and the Empire.
- The Quisling: Even named "the quisling" by the characters. She is one of many who have sold out entirely to the Chapalii and have been granted limited authority because of it.
- Rising Empire: Ilya is building a jaran empire with his conquests.
- Starfish Aliens: The Chapalii. Acknowledged by the humans as true while they struggle to understand them, but even they don't know the extent of it until Ilyana meets a female chapalli.
- Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Chapalii females, who can apparently manipulate space-time.
- Transplanted Humans: The Rhuians, who were taken from Earth between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago by the Tai-en Mushai. They were also genetically "improved".