The first chapter of the book covers the arrival of the fleet of the Brandt Dynasty in the Void. They were intending to found a new colony outside the Commonwealth, but were drawn into the Void by an unknown event or agent, The chapter is written from the perspective of Laura Brandt, who is hundreds of years old, and her experiences when investigating an alien artefact in space while Skylords guide the rest of the fleet toward a habitable planet. The Brandt expedition is split into two sets of starships once they enter the Void, each guided by a separate Skylord toward a different planet. Near the start of the chapter, two characters are mentioned, Tiger Brandt and Rahka Brandt, who are married. This, taken with the fact that the fleet is split into two, hints that these are the people who came to be known as The Lady and Rah to the people of Querencia, and that the colonisation of Querencia was the result of the Brandt expedition.
The next chapters follow the perspective of Nigel Sheldon, who is contacted by a Raiel and asked to infiltrate the Void. The Raiel reveals to Sheldon that Makkathran is a sentient starship, one of the Raiel fleet that invaded the Void a million years ago and was never heard from again.
The next chapter takes the perspective of Sylvasta, a 17-year-old trooper in the army of the inhabitants of the planet Bienvenido, who protect the population from the Fallers. In this chapter parallels with Querencia are established. The beings known as genistars on Querencia are called mods; the third hand of Querencia is known as teekay; longtalk is 'path, and so on. A key difference between the two planets, however, is that the inhabitants of Bienvenido have developed steam power, in particular steam trains.
In this chapter the nature of the Fallers, only hinted at in the first chapter, is more fully explained. Later in the chapter Sylvasta is rescued (losing an arm in the process) and begins rising through the ranks of the army.
Kysandra Blair joins forces with Nigel Sheldon to aid his manipulation of the revolution, which is merely a means to an end: for Nigel to enter the Captain's Palace to retrieve technological artefacts from the starship that landed there 3,000 years previously, in order to facilitate his attack on the Void.
See also the Wikipedia The_Abyss_Beyond_Dreams article.