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I'm a hopeful cynic.

Dark Soul Vol. 1 - Aleksandr Voinov The only reason I’m not giving Dark Soul five stars is because it’s part of a series. These stories aren’t delivered like traditional stand-alones (at least this one isn’t) so I don’t have the whole picture yet.The first thing that you realize when you start reading this is that you’re not at the beginning of the story. Or rather, you are at the beginning of the part of the story the author chose to give you. And you have to figure out lots of details by yourself. The author doesn’t facilitate things for you nor does he make any attempt to make you like the characters. What he does however is dissect them in his own special way and allow you to witness their raw thoughts and emotions. Then he lets you decide for yourself. And I decided I liked Silvio “the Barracuda” Spadaro. To be precise, I liked the way Stefano Marino sees him since the story is told through Stefano’s POV. Silvio has the blackest eyes framed by the longest eyelashes. He’s slim and lithe and a little feminine but at the same time he’s all muscle and sinew. He’s cheeky and at the same time intimidating. He’s a killer and he’s in his early twenties but he’s feared by mobsters twice his age. And he’s the protégé of a very powerful mobster, a now retired consigliere, Gianbattista Falchi.Stefano is what they call a “made man”, i.e. an established mobster, happily married to beautiful and sexy and smart Donata. What we learn though is that Stefano has some dark and unspoken sexual urges, and Silvio not only brings them to the surface but makes Stefano want to act on them. Desperately.These are high-rank mobsters though and homosexuality is not exactly applaud in their circles. There has already been a certain amount of speculation about Silvio and his mentor, about how Gianbattista remains a bachelor even though he is in his fifties and the last thing Stefano needs is for the rumour mill to start spinning about him.And then Stefano gets the chance to interact with Silvio in a most “explosive” manner before he is forced to ask for Gianbattista’s help to stave the Russian mobsters off his businesses. Inevitably, by asking for Falchi’s help, Stefano gets in deeper as far as his obsession over Silvio is concerned. According to Stefano, Silvio is “a forbidden fantasy, made of razor blades and sweat and desire.”Oh and, excuse me, but I have to say this out loud: That is one awesome cover! Simply beautiful. Isn’t that the perfect image of Silvio right after he comes up for air from that whirlpool?I enjoyed the first story, but the second one I loved. It rewarded me in a most glorious way. And what I call “Voinov’s italics” had a lot to do with it. What are those? The thoughts the reader is privy to but are not revealed to the other characters of the story. At some point, Stefano tells Silvio he won’t get involved with him: “As it stands, I won’t get involved in any of this. You’re…” the most erotic, most intriguing person I’ve ever met, “With Falchi. I’m here to ask for help. That’s it.”Silvio only hears the “You’re with Falchi” part but the reader learns oh so much more!Also, it was in the second story I grew to care about Silvio, I learned more about him, verified the little slut does have a heart and it can actually break. At some point, toward the end of the book I heard Diane by Therapy? in my head when I read the Silvio parts. Hey, little boy. Wanna take a ride with me? ;)I can’t wait to meet you again in Dark Soul.