A novelist as talented as C.J Cherryh always has her successes to live up to, and the Chanur novels are one of three, or possibly four successes that permanently raised the bar for her.
If you want a quick, thorough romp through an alien culture novel, concluded with Cherryh's trademark big battle finish, pick up *The Pride of Chanur.* It's two hundred pages, self-contained, exciting and stimulating. Cherryh's space-faring lions make Larry Niven's Kzinti look like intelligent apes, and her extrapolation of lion culture to her needs is fascinating.
One of the best things in the novel is Cherryh's assumption of the non-human perspective, from which the sole human, Tully, seems the most alien, and from which the mahendo'sat, who are also primates, it turns out, seem almost as estranged from us as the insectlike kif.
Be warned, if you go from here into the rest of the five-volume series, that the next three novels --*Chanur's Venture,* *The Kif Strike Back,* and *Chanur's Homecoming*-- are a three-chunk publication of one huge novel, more than a thousand pages, that was intended to be called *Chanur's Revenge.* The first ends practically in mid-sentence, and so does the second. Expect a long haul.