is classic science fiction, exploration of new worlds, clashes between galactic civilizations.
It is also a fairly classic "intelligent young man is swept up in events beyond his control and is thrust into responsibilities far earlier than he should be" tale.
And at both, it's pretty good. But not great. I just, quite frankly, kept catching myself tuning out every once in a while, then having to flip back and figure out what I missed. But while it isn't engrossing, it's solid early Poul Anderson, and Poul Anderson is almost always worth a read.
Dominic Flandry is an Ensign on Starkad, where the Earth is arming the landfolk with weapons, while their intergalactic rivals, the Merseians, are arming the seafolk. They're fighting out imperial battles through native populations, and edging closer and closer to all out war.
And those damned diplomats are trying to keep the peace, when the Merseians really can't be trusted, and you have to let the military do their thing, even if it screws up diplomacy - I had to cock an eyebrow a little at that.
But Flandry ends up a) befriending the woman in charge of the landfolk on Starkad, b) getting attached to the intelligence chief as an aide and c) sent to Merseia, where he is in receipt of some dangerous information that neither the Merseians nor certain Earth elements want to get out.
How Flandry negotiates these problems is entertaining, and I enjoyed reading this, but I doubt it'll linger.