When the Catteni ships descended on earth it was one of the most terrifying experiences humankind had ever known. Kris Bjornsen, along with thousands of others, found herself herded by forcewhips into the hold of giant spaceships to be transported to the slave compounds of an alien planet. And even then it wasn't over. For, after a partially successful escape attempt, Kris was once more shipped across space - to an apparently empty and untamed planet. The Catteni just dumped an assorted load of humans and aliens on the strange world and left them to see what would happen.
Brilliantly the refugees began to organize themselves into a pattern of survival. The planet was eerie and not as empty as it seemed. For someone - something - had built giant storage barns - the planet was being used as a huge larder - for an entity they could not comprehend.
As Kris and her patrol set out to explore the enigmatic world she had yet another problem to contend with - the presence of Zainal, the high-ranking patrician Catteni who had been abandoned with the rest of them. Zainal was strong, brilliant, and...kind, and Kris was puzzled by his presence, his personality, and above all by the tenuous tie she felt towards this man - who was not a man but one of the hated Catteni.
With a tale of human and other slaves abandoned by harsh masters on an ostensibly deserted planet, McCaffrey begins another highly readable series about successful survival in difficult circumstances. Kristin Bjornsen, an escaped human slave on the planet Barevi, saves one of the Catteni masters, Zainal, from being killed in a blood feud. When she tries to return him to the capital city, she is caught in a roundup of troublemakers designated for colonization duty. Among those dropped with few supplies on the unexplored new planet, later named Freedom, is Zainal, who turns out to be an aristocrat of his species. After Zainal is again saved from death, this time at the hands of vengeful former slaves, he casts his lot with the castaways, who have turned to former Marine sergeant Chuck Mitford for leadership. In sturdy Robinson Crusoe fashion, the survivors overcome the odds against them, rescue other castaways and find signs of a mysterious civilization that is using Freedom as a giant mechanized farm. They also deal with the few bad apples in their midst. Meanwhile love blossoms between Zainal and Kristin, to the displeasure of some of the other humans. McCaffrey has created another set of winning protagonists and a carefully detailed, exotic background on which to develop a new series.