Jenre's Reviews > Dark Soul Vol. 1

Dark Soul Vol. 1 by Aleksandr Voinov
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Jan 15, 12

bookshelves: contemporary, m-m, erotica, bdsm
Read in November, 2011

This review can also be found at Brief Encounters Reviews.

Let’s first start by saying that this collection of two short stories is not for the faint hearted! It has themes that won’t appeal to everyone. Themes such as infidelity, gun play, dub con and rough sex. If that hasn’t put you off then you’ll probably like this book.

Both stories follow the character of Stefano who’s a minor member of the ‘family’. In the first story he’s at the house of the head guy, waiting for him to die along with all the other mob members when he meets Silvio, the protege of retired mob member Gianbattista. When Silvio breaks into his room late at night, Stefano has to teach him a lesson in respecting other people’s privacy. In the second story Stefano has traveled to Italy to meet with Gianbattista in the hope that he can get some help turfing the Russians from his patch. It’s here that he meets with Silvio again.

Out of the two stories the first is a little more complete in that it could be read as a standalone, whereas the second is a sort of lead up to future stories. How well you like this book will depend on your feelings for the very amoral Stefano, who narrates the stories. He’s married and very much in love with his wife, but he also has a burning passion for Silvio which, admittedly, he tries to resist – although I get the impression his resistance is more about being in the closet, than being unfaithful to his wife. This push/pull of feelings for Silvio forms the most interesting part of both stories and despite the fact that Stefano isn’t a particularly nice man, I still warmed to him.

There’s a quality to the writing in the story which I found quite compelling, so that even during some uncomfortable scenes I wanted to read on to find how it was all going to work out. For example, gun play is not really my thing because I just don’t really see the appeal, but I was still caught up in the power play dynamics during that scene. There are three men in the room and although we are focused mainly on Stefano and Silvio, I still could feel the discomfort of the third man, Stefano’s body-guard, because the atmosphere in that scene is so rich with emotion.

The second story too plays with dynamics. Gianbattista is a dangerous man, even in retirement and the story looks at how Stefano and Silvio fit in with Gianbattista and with each other. There isn’t much that happens in the second story, but the careful dialogue and tension between the three men provided a forward thrust to the plot. In some ways this story is more about Silvio and Gianbattista than Stefano, although it’s all seen through Stefano’s eyes. It made for interesting reading to see a outsider’s views on the events within a relationship.

This is the first of a set of stories about Stefano and Silvio and I’m looking forward to seeing how these relationships develop in future books.
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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DarienMoya Grea Review Jenre!!
I loved this one so much.


Jenre Thanks Darien :). I find as this series goes on it gets better and better.


Michael Joseph So, you read it as two short stories? I didn't get that, and looked at it as two badly connected halves of a book that could have been more complete with a better middle. Still gave it four stars, though.


Jenre I don't think you can read these as a fluid story line, Michael. It's too fragmented for that. I see the series as a whole as a number of linked shorts or scenes with an overall story arc. Otherwise, you are right that it would appear badly connected.


message 5: by orannia (last edited Jan 18, 2012 11:40PM) (new)

orannia I need to try this author. I'm just not sure where to start... I was thinking of starting with the book I had won from Aleks, but I think it has got lost in the mail :(


Michael Joseph Yes, going back and looking at the cover, it's a little more obvious that it's two shorts, although it's very subtle in the text. Still, as much as I like Voinov's work, I have to say that creating a series of disconnected shorts comes off as lazy, when this could be so much better as a complete novella. I wonder if his editor has anything to do with this? ;-)


message 7: by Aleksandr (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov Nope, I did it on purpose, after several attempts to tell this in a more conventional way have failed (I've been working with these characters for twenty years, and have the failed five novels to prove it). My editor Rachel has absolutely nothing to do with that choice, either. I'm not sure where that makes me "lazy", trying out new things and a more episodic format, but I'm happy to discuss.


Michael Joseph Interesting, it just goes to show that you can't please everybody, and fortunately for you I seem to be in the minority.


message 9: by Aleksandr (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov Well, I am hoping that things become clearer over the whole project length - I have a Big Plan in my head and I'm also testing a theory. The whole thing will obviously stand and fall with the last piece of the puzzle, but yes, so far, every episode is very much structured as a short story - I'm not sure how I could make it clearer in terms of structure.


Jenre The format works for me because I always saw it as a set of shorts. Plus, I read a lot of short stories and I'm used to the idea of a linked series of shorts because I see it all the time, for example, the Dr Fell series by Syd McGinley.

I think once it's accepted that there a lot of things we may never know, or even need to know, then the episodic format is more workable. What's on the page is what is necessary and for the rest we can use our imaginations to fill in the gap until the next important piece of knowledge is fed to us.


Jenre Orannia: I suggest starting with Scorpion. I know you love fantasy and it's one of the best I read last year.

I hope your book hasn't got lost!


message 12: by Michael (last edited Jan 19, 2012 01:29AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Michael Joseph I'm a little worried about where this discussion is going. I'm not trying to pick a fight or denigrate your work. I'm just expressing an opinion based on my reading preferences. I clearly misunderstood the structure of Dark Soul, but in my defense, let me point out that nothing in the blurb explicitly indicates that the book is a collection of two shorts. It reads (again, to me) as a description of a single story, and I sat down to read it with that assumption in mind. My bad.


Michael Joseph I was going to try to leave this alone, but Jenre makes an excellent point: it's about managing expectations. I'm not a fan of connected shorts, but had I known that's what Dark Soul was going in, I would probably be less critical of the 'missing' parts.


message 14: by Aleksandr (last edited Jan 19, 2012 01:48AM) (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov Jenre - Yep. I'm definitely working with the reader's imagination. This one is even more a collaborative effort than other writing (I think).

Orannia - I know stuff has gone missing, but if you let me know which book and which format, I'll re-send it. Sorry for the wait. :(

Michael - Sorry if I come across as defensive, I don't mean to. (While I don't like insinuations that my editor somehow decided the format of my project - editors get involved at a far later stage - and hence weakened it in some way, I'm more than happy to take the criticism on my own head), all readers are entitled to their opinions. It works for some, it doesn't for others. Generally speaking, most authors know what they are doing and are making conscious choices. Whether they WORK is a totally different question. :)

ETA: Fixed the hyphens/dashes.


message 15: by orannia (new)

orannia @Jenre - thank you! Scorpion is on my ARe wish list and since I have been given some vouchers recently (and you're right, I adore fantasy :) I thought I might go eBook shopping this weekend *grin*

And...I still think I'd like to try Dark Soul. Knowing picking it up that it is a series of shorts, and that it will continue, is good going in. See, I'm not usually a fan of shorts because I like a slow build-up to a story and characters and that's not often possible with a short simply because of space constraints. But...if I'm aware that the series will continue (and that there is a Big Plan :) then all good :)

Aleks - absolutely no worries :) And please don't feel obliged to replace the book (which was Counterpunch BTW) - as things go missing in the mail and that's absolutely not your fault. However, if you'd prefer to (although absolutely no pressure :)...would it be OK to have it in eBook format (ePub if possible) please? I actually have tendonitis in both wrists and so I'm trying to avoid reading print books ATM because holding them strains my wrists :) And this way we don't have to chance fate again by using snail mail *grin* Many thanks :)

Oh, and with regard to testing a theory? I read Ginn Hale's The Rifter this year. I love Ginn's previous books, but wasn't sure if I could cope with the serial format (i.e. the waiting), but it so completely worked for me. I loved speculating with everyone here about what X and Y meant. So I look forward to seeing/hearing where you go with Dark Soul :)


message 16: by Aleksandr (new) - added it

Aleksandr Voinov Just sent you the book. :)


message 17: by orannia (new)

orannia Thank you Aleks!


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