This is an appendix to the Suggested Reading Order post, sketching out my reasons for the order I chose. There will be discussion of plot points, if you haven’t read everything yet and it’s something that matters to you.
Most of the novels can be laid out in chronological order without any overlaps or other complications, but there are a few which happen at the same time as, or otherwise off to the side of, other novels.
The easy bit is this sequence: Crystal Soldier, Crystal Dragon, Balance of Trade, Trade Secret, Fair Trade, Local Custom, Scout’s Progress, Mouse and Dragon, Conflict of Honors, Agent of Change, Carpe Diem, Plan B, I Dare, Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship, Dragon in Exile, Alliance of Equals, Neogenesis, Accepting the Lance.
The difficult novels are Fledgling, Saltation, Necessity’s Child, The Gathering Edge, and Trader’s Leap.
Necessity’s Child overlaps the end of Ghost Ship and some amount (it’s not clear how much) of Dragon Ship. The obvious solution is to read it between the two, and this is what I tried for my own re-reading. I found, however, that placing Necessity’s Child there interrupts the flow of the story from Ghost Ship to Dragon Ship, and also, it turns out, the flow of the story from Necessity’s Child to Dragon in Exile. Therefore I recommend reading in the order Ghost Ship, Dragon Ship, Necessity’s Child, Dragon in Exile.
The Gathering Edge takes place around the time of Dragon in Exile and Alliance of Equals, but it’s not clear precisely when. I have placed it, following publication order, after Alliance of Equals, but may revisit it if a later novel brings further clarity regarding chronology or story flow.
Trader’s Leap overlaps the end of Neogenesis and at least the first two-thirds of Accepting the Lance. I recommend reading it after Neogenesis, but have been unable to make up my mind whether it’s better read before or after Accepting the Lance; I have therefore defaulted to published order and placed it after.
Saltation runs to the side of the Agent of Change sequence, beginning some time before Agent of Change and ending at precisely the same point as I Dare. I recommend reading it between I Dare and Ghost Ship for several reasons. One is the story flow consideration: the beginning of Ghost Ship picks up directly from the end of Saltation. Reading Saltation after I Dare also preserves, as much as is possible, the surprise of Theo showing up at the end of I Dare with a story to tell – and then reading Saltation next acts as a kind of novel-long flashback explaining what that story is.
Fledgling happens away from the main sequence of events, but counting back from Saltation shows that it’s set between Conflict of Honors and Agent of Change, so that’s where I’ve put it. (If I had been doing this a few years ago, I might have done it differently, and suggested reading it after Professor Kiladi’s introduction in Plan B; that wouldn’t have been strictly chronological, but we could have called it another novel-long flashback. Now that Mouse and Dragon introduces Professor Kiladi before Fledgling takes place, though, it seems reasonable to put it in the obvious place.)
All Liaden Stories by Internal Chronology (More or Less)
These stories are specifically dated, either by their own texts or by the “Updated But Partial Liaden Universe Timeline”: “Naratha’s Shadow”, “Sweet Waters”, “Phoenix”, “Pilot of Korval”, “A Choice of Weapons”, “Veil of the Dancer”, “Heirloom”, “A Matter of Dreams”, “Moonphase”, “To Cut an Edge”, “Changeling”, “Breath’s Duty”, “Misfits”, “A Day at the Races”, “Certain Symmetry”.
Internal evidence indicates that “Due Diligence” takes place a few years before “Pilot of Korval”, “The Beggar King” shortly after “A Choice of Weapons”, “Intelligent Design” shortly after “Heirloom”, and “Shadow Partner” at the same time as “A Day at the Races” (a story-long flashback to go with those novel-long flashbacks we mentioned earlier). “Fighting Chance” describes an event which is dated specifically in the seventh chapter of Carpe Diem. “The Space at Tinsori Light” describes an event which is dated specifically in the fifteenth chapter of Neogenesis.
“Dragon Tide” and “Necessary Evils” both take place before Crystal Soldier. “Out of True” takes place during Trade Secret. “Dead Men Dream” takes place after Trade Secret and before Fair Trade. “Guaranteed Delivery” and “From Every Storm a Rainbow” take place during the long gap near the end of Mouse and Dragon; “Quiet Knives” during Carpe Diem; “Daughter of Dragons” and “Persistence” during I Dare; “Landed Alien” during the long gap near the end of Saltation; “Moon on the Hills”, “Hidden Resources”, “Kin Ties”, and “Prodigal Son” during Ghost Ship. “Roving Gambler” takes place after Ghost Ship but before Dragon in Exile; “The Rifle’s First Wife” at some point before the final chapter of Dragon in Exile; “Chimera” during the latter part of Dragon in Exile. “Code of Honor” starts near the end of I Dare and ends during Ghost Ship. “Skyblaze” starts near the end of I Dare and ends some time before Necessity’s Child. “Opportunity to Seize” occurs at or just after the end of Neogenesis. “The Gate That Locks the Tree” mentions the final scene of Accepting the Lance as having happened “not long ago”.
“Preferrred Seating” and “Ambient Conditions” take place together, with “Ambient Conditions” finishing shortly after “Preferred Seating”. They’re not very specifically placed in the timeline; we’ve been told only that the event they revolve around occurred at least two and possibly more than three centuries before the series present. I’ve put them just before Balance of Trade, which occurs a bit under three centuries before the series present and shares some themes.
“Excerpts from Two Lives” mentions an event which sounds like an early stage of the trade route shift mentioned in Trade Secret, so I have placed it shortly after that novel and “Out of True”. “Revolutionists” mentions an event which is explicitly a late stage of the same trade route shift, which places it around four centuries after Trade Secret, and makes it chronologically the latest story we’ve seen to date.
“This House” takes place some time after “A Day at the Races”; it doesn’t matter greatly how much after, since there’s no overlap of characters with any other story, so I’ve placed it shortly after so the points of commonality may be appreciated.
“Wise Child” takes place at some point before Dragon in Exile, but it is not clear how much before. I have provisionally placed it next to Dragon Ship, though I suspect it’s earlier than that, due to some commonalities of subject.
“Degrees of Separation” ends at some point before, though not greatly before, the end of the Agent of Change sequence. I have placed it before the beginning of the sequence, figuring that putting it anywhere during the sequence would interrupt the flow, and next to “Changeling”, due to some similarities of subject. “Fortune’s Favors” is set after “Degrees of Separation”, and shares the same considerations regarding placement. “Block Party”, which covers a period of weeks or months, begins during or shortly before Accepting the Lance and ends probably after; I suggest reading it after, for reasons of story flow. “Our Lady of Benevolence” is set around the same time as “Block Party”; publication order suggests after, and I have no solid reason to disagree. “Shout of Honor” is set after The Gathering Edge and before Accepting the Lance; I have placed it after The Gathering Edge, from which it continues a subplot and a set of characters. “A Visit to the Galaxy Ballroom” is set before Accepting the Lance and probably before if not during Neogenesis; I suggest reading it before Neogenesis for reasons of story flow.
“Cutting Corners” is set “ten or twenty Standards” after Mouse and Dragon; my suggested position splits the difference and puts it fifteen Standards after, in the midst of a group of stories that have similar themes.
“Dark Secrets” is certainly set after alliances between individual Liadens and individual Terrans have become common enough to not be inherently remarkable, and possibly before the ven’Tura Tables were revised, which happened a few years before Local Custom. I’ve suggested reading it after “Due Diligence”, another story in which an individual Liaden makes alliance with an individual Terran; my gut feeling is actually that it’s a bit later, but placing it later gets it tangled in the transition to the series being all about our favorite children of Korval.
“Command Decision” is set at a time when Angela Lizardi had not yet achieved command of her own unit, but had a plan to do so; for want of more precise information about when that was, I have placed it immediately before “Fighting Chance”, which is set just after that ambition is achieved.
“Where the Goddess Sends”, “The Wine of Memory”, and “A Spell for the Lost” can be shown from internal evidence to occur close together and in that order, but when they occur relative to the other stories is vague (deliberately so: the authors made a point of not including them in the Updated But Partial Timeline). They take place some time after Crystal Dragon and some considerable time before “Moon’s Honor”, which is similarly vague but takes place some considerable time before “A Matter of Dreams”. I’ve basically stuck them in wherever there were suitable long gaps, so that there’s a couple of novels and a bunch of stories between “A Spell for the Lost” and “Moon’s Honor” and then a couple more novels and another bunch of stories between “Moon’s Honor” and “A Matter of Dreams”.
“Eleutherios” gives no hints about when it’s set except that it’s most likely after the Great Migration. My suggested placement for it is based more on gut feeling than anything else.
“King of the Cats”, “Lord of the Dance”, “Friend of a Friend”, and “Street Cred” have been officially declared non-canonical “what ifs” or “might have happeneds”, and so are not included in this chronology.