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Describes the encounter of a group of stranded human colonists with the Atevi, a species whose biology provides them with different emotions than those understood by humans. After intitial misunderstandings leading to the War of the Landing, the Treaty of the Landing isolates humans from Atevi, allowing humans to live on one large island, Mospheira, in exchange for gradual relinquishment of human technology to the steam-aged Atevi civilization, mediated by one specially trained human: the Paidhi.

This is sociological science fiction at its best. Bren Cameron, the current Paidhi, is smart, dedicated, and highly skilled as a linguist and mediator, an unusual profession for a science fiction hero. The series poses and explores questions about the nature of human emotions and attachments, the cultural assumptions embedded in language, and the danger of thinking one understands another person, of whatever species, even when one has agreed on "definitions" of words.

After a short introductory section required by Cherryh's publisher, the story picks up 200 years after the Treaty of the Landing, and includes the following books to date (note: these pages may contain spoilers):

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