This book is a prequel to the Liaden Universe stories. I assume that anyone who has read those stories will read this book no matter what the reviews say, so I guess I'll aim this review at someone coming in unfamiliar with the story.
(For those who are already hooked, this book lives up to all your hopes except for one aspect -- it only tells half the story. The book does end at a fairly natural break-point, and it is a compelling read on its own, but plot-wise it only serves to set up Book 2.)
So, if you don't already know the Liaden Universe, what should you expect from this book? Adventure! It is the story of a soldier (genetically bred to be a soldier) who is fighting against a remorseless enemy that plans to destroy all life in the galaxy. And worse yet, the enemy is winning.
The soldier decides to cast his lot with an underground group of mutineers, who he thinks are actually the best hope for defeating the enemy.
Then he accidently encounters a smuggler, and somehow the soldier, the smuggler, and an escaped slave end up on the run from some serious trouble. Is it the enemy? The regular high command? Someone else?
None of the three trust each other to share the same interests, but they do trust each other to watch their backs. The smuggler just wants to get the other two off her ship, the slave wants to find a legendary colony of escaped slaves, and the soldier wants ... well actually he is pretty closemouthed about what he wants. And about why he is carrying a tree with him wherever he goes.
And all of them have different groups of people hunting them, so it is not clear whether they are safer together or whether they just make a bigger target.
The action jumps from one planet to the next as the trio attempts to outwit their pursuers and each other. And all of this happens in the shadow of nearly certain doom for the entire galaxy.
The story ends at a natural break-point, but the plot is at least as unresolved as it was at the start of the novel. If you really hate that sort of thing, you might want to wait for Book 2 and read them both together. But if you just want a fast-paced adventure with some memorable characters, this book will provide what you are looking for.
And while you are waiting for Book 2, you can find and read all the other Liaden stories, to which this is just the prequel. I would suggest starting with the three-novel collection "Partners In Necessity". Or perhaps the pair of romances collected in "Pilot's Choice".