This whole series, consisting of "Gate of Ivrel", "Well of Shiuan", "Fires of Azeroth", and "Exile's Gate", is my favorite of any author's, and I've read A LOT.
Cherryh's style is clean and dry, but at the same time very intense and passionate. Instead of using flowery words and melodrama to spoon-feed emotion to the reader, she uses common words and short, almost aggressive phrasing. The tension and passion and danger are drawn with a sharpness and clarity that is almost painful. A deceptively simple word or glance between these characters, whether friends or enemies, will at times bring that tension to a breathless peak, but without the expected release afterwards.
This is not an easy, exciting Harlequin-esque roller-coaster of peaks and valleys. This is a sharp ridge on a bare mountain with an occasional rock slide.
This is not a graceful Puccini aria that makes you want to weep and feel melancholy. This is avant-garde jazz where a single painfully high note is drawn out in the background for so long that you find yourself begging for a release that you fear may never come but then again do you really want it to?
It's exhausting, but in the best sense.
And about the 4th time I read the series, I found that it was funny too! It is, of course, a very dry humor, but it's there. And not a joke or eccentric comedic bit player to be seen.
It's easy to fall in love with these characters. They're very different from each other, but they're both excruciatingly familiar!
Cherryh creates the perfect male characters for a straight female audience. Cherryh's men are the kind many of us would create for ourselves. (Which is very different from the men male writers create.) Cherryh's men are capable of great valor and honor, but also of very deep emotion and affection, and self-reflection.
Also, her men often feel strong love and affection and respect for other men, without there being any sexual element to it. This is not only unique, but very difficult. The ability to create tension between male characters who love each other without it reading like sexual tension or a Sunday night "family drama" is something I rarely see. I appreciate it when I do.
My circle of friends has a shorthand way of expressing our reaction to this exhausting mix of physical danger and emotional tension, just by groaning "AAAAAHHHHGHHHHGHGHHHHHG!!!". If one of us starts off a conversation this way, another might say "Are you dying, or did you just finish a Cherryh?"