Strange, quiet Luka doesn't live in this world; long ago he took refuge in his art, escaping into surreal mindscapes inspired by his favorite painters. In the beautifully monstrous realms of his imagination, he is safe from the pain of his losses: his family, his friends, his hope.
Until war breaks out, and he is forced to flee the only home he's known since he was thirteen.
Captured by an enemy soldier, young Luka is marched across brutal terrain, toward a fate known only by the bearded menace holding him prisoner. Quick with a knife, tireless and strong, Tarik guards the purpose of his mission as he takes Luka deeper and deeper into enemy territory.
When the soldier discovers the painful secret he has been hiding since childhood, Luka fears he is about to endure a new kind of cruelty, worse than being abandoned, ostracized or beaten. Or is it possible the soldier holding Luka prisoner is the one person who isn't afraid of the truth behind Luka's silence and lies?
It was weird, seeing himself in the mirror. He'd lost weight, and his cheekbones were much more pronounced than they used to be. While he brushed, Luka fingered the bruise ringing his neck, a nauseating chill slinking through him at the sight of the wound on his wrist as he lifted his hand to his lips, pushing them out of shape the way they must have squished and bulged while Begović smeared them with lipstick. Had he really looked like a girl? Or had they only said it to humiliate him?
What did Tarik see, when he looked at him?
Daris. Tarik was a father. Even though Luka tried to push it away, he couldn't escape the image of Tarik kissing the ephemeral vision Luka had of the mother of his child, holding her in his arms, lying on top of her, moving over her. What was he to Tarik? Maybe, probably, he was just an implement. A diverting alternative to jerking off.
Stripped naked, Luka's bruise-mottled body didn't match his face, like a perverse child had put the wrong head on his doll's body. He wrapped a towel around himself, pulling it tight across his chest and tucking the corner in like starlets he'd seen in old movies. Maybe Begović was right. Luka took the wet towel Tarik had used, charged with the little thrill of knowing that dampness came from Tarik's body, and wrapped it around his head like a turban. He looked like someone else.
Was that other self in the mirror a revelation, or an erasure?
Luka jumped and gasped, startled by the soft knock at the bathroom door.
He took a breath and tried to calm his voice. “Yeah?”
“I just wanted to make sure you're okay. I didn't hear the shower.”
A reckless impulse, reaching out, fingers trembling, heart pounding hard, legs unsteady, and opening the door.
“Are you alright?” Tarik held his gaze, and Luka couldn't tell if Tarik saw the revelation, or the erasure.
“I was just trying to decide...” Luka stopped and took another breath because his voice was failing him. Then his courage failed him. He couldn't say it.
Tarik gave him a kind smile. “What were you trying to decide?”
“Like this,” a breath, a leap, “do I look like a woman?”
Tarik's kind smile still frozen in place, his eyes filled with confusion. After a few horrible seconds of silence, in a low voice he asked, “Do you want to look like a woman?”
“I don't know.” He didn't want to start crying. “Would you like it?”
“I don't understand, Luka. Are you... does this have something to do with what Armin and Begović did to you?”
It didn't. But it did. “They liked it.”
Tarik was quiet for a few moments, and Luka had the feeling he was carefully weighing each syllable of whatever he might say next. “Was the wig your idea?”
“No.” The word shuddered out of him, embarrassment squeezing his ribs in a sudden clench.
Tarik's stance and expression softened.
“But if you'd like me like that...” He hated that he couldn't keep his voice even.
Without knowing why, when Tarik stepped toward him, Luka backed away until he was up against the counter. “Do you know how I'd like you, Luka?”
Why was he shaking so badly? Why couldn't he speak? Why was he suddenly cold, shivering in some lingering shadow of the fear he'd felt those first moments in the cave, Tarik bearded and wielding his big knife, twisting up in the terror of the belt squeezing his throat closed while Armin forced his mouth open?
Tarik raised his hand to Luka's face. Bracing himself, willing himself to be still, Luka waited for a touch. A caress. Instead, Tarik lifted the towel from Luka's head and dropped it on the counter. “This is how I'd like you to be. Just as you are.”
When Tarik touched the towel Luka had wrapped around his body, a shudder shook Luka. Tarik hesitated a moment, then, watching his eyes, pulled the corner free from where Luka had tucked it under his arm. A strangled little noise escaped Luka's throat and he caught Tarik's wrist.
“You don't want me to?”
Luka met his eyes, but his hand stayed frozen
“Why does it scare you? Are you still afraid I'll get angry with you?”
Luka's throat felt like it was clogged with glue. “No.”
Voice quiet, but firm. “Then let me look at you.”
Like falling, falling from the safety of trusted arms toward cold, suffocating water waiting to swallow him, giddy with dread, bracing himself, Luka made himself let go of Tarik's wrist.
Holding his gaze, Tarik pulled the towel from Luka's body, then slowly looked him over. Panting for breath, Luka rooted himself there, strangling his desperate need to duck away, to run, to hide under something. To disappear.
Tarik's gaze slid up his torso, and met his eyes. His voice was low and thick. “This is how I like you, Luka.”
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Twitter: @VarianKrylov https://twitter.com/VarianKrylov
This novel is about citizens in a country at civil war. Luka is a sweet, gentle, gay young man who is constantly finding himself at the short end of every situation. He has to try hiding his orientation because it would make him an outcast and subject to brutality. As if that isn't enough, he's without family and has the wrong ethnicity and accent for the part of the country where he happens to live. The only joy he has in life is his art, but he can't even be left in peace with it. Tarik is a forward thinker compared to many from where they live. He's smart and strong, a survivor. Tarik finds Luka in his path during a time when their people are sworn natural enemies.
Trasmundo is so different from what I normally read by this author, and although I've liked all that I've read from her, it was a pleasant surprise. This book deals with genocide, art and falling in love for the first time, not exactly the average romance novel combination. The storyline pulled many emotions from me. Poor Luka's lot in life hurt my heart. The shy love was pure beauty. My nerves were on high alert during the escape, so many close calls.
If you're looking for a touching read, less dark erotica and more literary fiction, that still contains sex scenes, this may be just the story for you. For me, it was great, and I will definitely be reading the next book.