Daughter of the Blood is the first book in a series by Anne Bishop. I'd known about it for a while but only just got around to reading it - and I was hooked by page 12.
This is not a book for those who are averse to sexual content in their reading. While there aren't explicit sex scenes per se, sexual domination is a large part of how the political power structure survives, so there's a lot of writing about it. Daughter of the Blood is a dark fantasy in every aspect of the phrase.
The characters are fantastic. With the political and magical intrigue permeating this book, it was sometimes difficult to tell who was on whose side, and that worked well. Daemon Sadi is one of the main characters, and you will spend a while trying to figure out what's going on in his head, even though we're given his POV. Bishop did a great job with him. Jaenelle was equally impressive and with her we don't get the benefit of seeing through her eyes. In fact, there are some chunks of the story where we don't see her at all, but she is never forgotten; her natural-born Blood powers (magic) keep anyone of lower power (everyone) focused on her, without her even knowing.
A full explanation of the hierarchy and political structure would take ages and really, you should just read the books to get a true feel of how things work, but here's a basic explanation:
The world is divided into three Realms, each of which is ruled by powerful members of the Blood (those born with magic). When someone is born into the Blood, they are born into a certain ranking of Jewel which determines their overall power and strength - the darker the color of the Jewel, the stronger the power. As a matriarchal society, Blood females outrank Blood males, with the top rank being Queen. The males serve the females (which is where the sexual politics comes into play), and are driven by a natural instinct to protect and serve powerful Blood females. Enter the current Queen, Dorothea, who has kept her status by eliminating any potential Blood female who could threaten her power. When she hears of a child who was born into the black (the most powerful/darkest Jewel), Dorthea sets in motion a plot to destroy her, using the very Blood males who want nothing more than to protect this witch-child.
This is Bishop's first book, and quite frankly, that's amazing. I'm really looking forward to the rest of the series. If you like dark fantasy done well, then this is for you.