Karou lives in a flat in Prague, attends art school, has blue hair and tattoos and friends. She also has a family of chimaera who live in a shop on the other side of a portal, a workshop with a door in from Karou's human world and a door out to...well, Karou doesn't know. Brimstone, the only father Karou knows, has a ram's head, a lions hindquarters, the torso of a man. Issa, half serpent and half woman, is the closest thing to a mother. They raised her, and Karou has no knowledge of where she actually came from. And then Karou meets an angel--fights him, actually, a beautiful, cold creature, strong and with wings of fire that he can hide under a glamour. There's a connection between them, strong and dazzling, but they're enemies, and Karou's life, world, is growing, twisting, changing.
I cannot even begin to say how much I loved this book. It's moody, smoke and flames and tangled streets with nooks for hiding. The characters are...well, the same. They're complicated, with painful secrets and wry senses of humor. It's a lot of world to build, a lot to explain, and it's never boring, never gratuitous. The romance isn't easy, and I love that. It feels destined, but undecided. The writing is amazing.
Most of the time, if I read a book and find out at the end that it's not a stand-alone, I get irritated. This time, I was grateful. I so very much want to read more of this book.