The basic premise of the Temeraire series is "What if dragons were used in the Napoleonic Wars?" The first book, His Majesty's Dragon, opens with Captain Laurence of the British navy capturing a damaged French ship and relieving it of its cargo - a dragon egg, which hatches before the ship can make it back to port. When the dragon hatches, and attaches himself to Laurence, he suddenly has to leave the Navy and get retrained as an aviator.
There's nothing I don't like about this book. The narration is less dry and technical than O'Brian's "Master and Commander" books, but retains the feel of it nevertheless. There are a lot of new concepts to introduce - basically everything having to do with the Aerial Corps and its crews of dragonriders - but the topics are covered naturally as the story unfolds, with no obvious "As you know, Bob" type exposition.
And oh, the dragons. I've been a fantasy geek for a while, and dragons are a big part of that for me. Novik's idea of dragons is a more sophisticated descendant of the dragons of Pern; while the influences are obvious, especially in the way dragons bond with their handlers upon hatching, the dragons in her books are people in their own right, and are full characters in the story.
shardavarius described the Temeraire series as "Pern meets Master and Commander", but the result is far more than that. Novik manages to pull out the best parts of both of those influences while leaving the weak points behind, meld it with some unique ideas and a fantastic storytelling voice, and end up with one of my favorite books I've read this year.
The next three books in the series are on their way from Amazon, but in the meanwhile I've started Charles Stross' The Jennifer Morgue, from the Laundry series.