Aiela Lyailleue is abducted by the dreaded iduve, enslaved, and mentally joined with two strangers: Isande, a beautiful woman who doesn't understand his rebellion, and Daniel Fitzhugh, an abused and terrified human. And that's just the beginning of his problems.
This is possibly my favorite Cherryh book (which means it's one of my favorite books of all time). It was one of the first ones she wrote, but it already displays her trademark strengths. She creates not one but three distinct alien races here, each with its own language, values, and culture. (If you find the alien languages difficult to follow, there's a glossary in back.) It has everything I've come to expect from a Cherryh novel: the immersion in an alien culture, the Byzantine politics, strong female characters, and most of all the charismatic characters and intense relationships. Probably if she had written this story later in her career, it would be a multi-volume series, like Chanur or Foreigner. But there's something to be said for brevity. Hunter of Worlds is in many ways more accessible than her later works. It's pared to the essentials - concentrated Cherryh. Though the book deals with many of the same themes Cherryh dealt with in later works, I found this one more daring than her usual "getting to know you" books about aliens. When you get right down to it, the iduve are slavers. That's about as unsympathetic as you can get. It's theoretically possible for a murderer to have a worthy motivation, but how can you possibly justify enslaving other intelligent, sentient beings? Yet somehow, she manages to show the iduve as merely alien, not evil.
Aiela, a member of the kalliran race, is an appealing character who has interesting relationships with several characters in the book. But the most compelling is his bond with Daniel. They are forcibly mindlinked by the iduve - so mentally entwined that one of them can be disciplined by torturing the other. Daniel, being rather more fractious than any kallia would be, proves quite a trial for poor Aiela.
Also interesting is his relationship with Chimele, the ruler of the iduve. While kallia evolved from herd-like prey animals, iduve evolved from predators. Chimele is rather cat-like. Not in looks, but in personality. I've heard that she was inspired by C'Mell, from Cordwainer Smith's "The Ballad of Lost C'Mell." Only instead of being a lowly girly-girl, she's the leader of a natural master race!
Hunter of Worlds is out of print as a standalone, but used copies are readily available. Also, it's half of an omnibus called At The Edge Of Space.