Title: Dark Soul Volume 1
Author: Aleksandr Voinov
Publisher: Riptide Publishing, 2011
I’ll kick off by saying that Dark Soul literally kept me on the edge of my seat and I devoured it in two sittings. Simmering tension underpins the relationship between our viewpoint character, Stefano, and the very intense Silvio.
Being gay if you’re a part of the Italian mafia is tantamount to a death sentence, and Stefano has lived his entire life thus far by keeping up the all-important facade that goes with being a self-made man. But he’s also been lying to himself, and although he is happily married to a beautiful woman, whom it’s clear he loves, it’s also evident that he has dark desires.
Silvio doesn’t seem to care what his peers think. As the indulged heir to a retired mafia boss, he does pretty much what he wants to, when he wants to. He oozes a raw sexuality that flies in the face of conformity, a challenge that grabs Stefano’s attention. He’s also damaged goods, who is fully able to submit and immerse himself in what others might find to be degrading situations.
Without giving spoilers, I’ll hint that Voinov has written what I’ll term as “That Scene” quite early in the story that had me swallowing drily and honestly wondering what the hell would happen next. This author understands how to ratchet up tension. And he masterfully understands how temporal power is often inextricably linked with sexual domination games.
In addition, Voinov doesn’t shy away from exploring the concept of what can be considered the forbidden, and he handles it with authenticity. There’s a raw honesty to his prose that makes me look forward to reading the next instalment. I love the fact that he doesn’t sugar coat.
As an exploration of complex layering of sexuality linked with power, within the complex world of the Italian mafia, Dark Soul hits all the right buttons with me. I find myself fascinated by Silvio, and appreciate that Voinov has not played his entire hand yet—and the suggestion that there still are quite a few secrets to be revealed. Stefano himself is set on a path of self-discovery, which is delicious to watch, and all this is spiced with the tension that external threats will still play an important role in developing this tale.