A Million Open Doors by John Barnes.
This is one of my absoloute favorites - hands down no exceptions. I read it when it first came out and periodically re-read it, though its sequels less often.
Anyway, the novel opens with a duel rapiers on Nou Occitan between traditionalists and interstellar jovents over a matter of honor. It gets into the action from the word go and provides enough info-dumps throughout that you can figure out what is going on. You find out about the settings (Nou Occitan, Caledony, The Thousand Cultures/Council of Humanity), our protagonist (Giraut Leones), his compahnos and others in the cast of characters.
I like this book because you get interesting characters, an interesting setting, a nifty dilemna and a villain worth hissing at. Plus honor, duels and romance.
Its a worthwhile book folks - go encourage Mr. Barnes to write more by rushing out and buying it and its sequels.