I picked this up not expecting a lot. The cover led me to expect a YA or a romantic light fantasy. I would say this is better characterized as more adult or high fantasy, but I believe younger audiences would still enjoy it. It is not a romance at all, if that is what you are looking for, this is not it. I was pleasantly surprised and will be getting the second of the series shortly. It is detailed, and if you are looking for something that moves quicker in the beginning this is not for you. You do have to commit to the book, the beginning has a lot of set up and detail, but I did not find it a problem and enjoyed how Michelle Sagara brought it all together in the end.
The story deals with a woman who has joined The Hawks, a military faction, after having been orphaned and living on the streets in the Fiefs as a child. She explores the mystery of marks that mysteriously appeared on her skin as a child and what they mean while investigating a number of child deaths in the fief of Nightshade that took place when she was a child and started happening again now she is an adult.
Social factions are divided by species of human and human/animal combination species. This type of theme can be a cheesy, but Michelle Sagara handled it pretty well. Social castes are separated based on species and economics.
I would recommend this book, ignore the cover of the book. The cover misrepresents it.