His Majesty's Dragon by Naomi Novik starts off with an interesting premise. Rather than the inferior Tolkein clones that dominate so much of fansty literature, His Majesty's Dragon is set against the historical backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. His Majesty's Dragon and all the books in the Temeraire series start off the twist that all nations of any size in Novik's alternate world have an airforce comprised of dragons.
His Majesty's Dragon off with a Naval battle in which captain Will Lawrence takes a French vessel as a prize. Unknown to the captain or the crew is that the vessel contains a gift from China to the French emeperor Napoleon. Because imprinting one of the men to the dragon means that the person will have to give up his naval career, Will Lawrence has his men draw lots.
Through a coincidence, despite not having drawn the shortest straw, Will Lawerence ends up having to harness the Chinese dragon and his life turns upside down. While His Majesty's Dragon and all the Temeraire books are based on an interesting premise, the author seldom bothers to give any creature that is not a dragon a unique personality. The reader can easily idenitfy with Temerarire and his dragon companions, but their human handlers all seem to be cut from the same rigid mold.
His Majesty's Dragon is a good book and an interesting premisve, but the reader finds it hard to identify with the human characters in Noviks's universe. This may be Namomi Novik's intention, but for a good short read for those tired of high heroic fantasy it is a welcome break.