This book was amazing! By turns fascinating and gripping and disturbing and enlightening but all just amazing.
It was most fascinating to me to get to see Silvio through eyes other than Stefano's for the first time. Using Sergei and Franco as the narrators for the first and third stories was brilliant and perfect. I think the most fascinating thing is that I felt like I learned more about Silvio being outside his head than I did from being inside of it.
The first story was the toughest for me to read, having to watch what Silvio allowed to happen to him, knowing that he was there to kill these men. For some reason, I was unable to connect the Sergei from this story with the thug that beat up Stefano, not that he didn't seem like the same character, but he seemed so sympathetic that it didn't even occur to me to make the connection. He was so considerate of Silvio, and then so kind and sweet and reassuring to him in the shower scene.
What finally made me recognize that Sergei was the one that had beaten Stefano was in the second story when Silvio calls him Sergei and Stefano calls him Frankenstein. I LOVED that moment! For me it showed how differently Silvio and Sergei see the world and other people (although, granted, it may have to do with the vastly different experiences they each had with Sergei). Stefano fixated on Sergei's appearance and distanced himself by nicknaming him Frankenstein. Silvio recognized something in Sergei that made him "not like them" and showed him an oddly tender mercy, considering.
Perhaps the most fascinating observation Sergei gives us about Silvio was "that he could see them both in that merciless face--the hooker and the young man from the shower. They were the exact same thing and yet completely different." There are so many possible meanings of that, and it's been delightfully interesting trying to puzzle some of them out.
What I loved about the second story was the tenderness both Stefano and Silvio show. It really struck me by the end how amazingly sweet it was that Stefano made that encounter completely about Silvio. The night before, Silvio had let the Russians take their pleasure from him so that he could serve Stefano. Even the encounter later in the shower was also about Sergei. But Stefano simply held Silvio and gave him pleasure, taking nothing but his companionship in return. So beautiful!
My favorite things about the third story were getting to see Stefano through someone else's eyes for the first time, and getting some more clues into what made Silvio the way he is. Seeing Franco meet and try to figure out Stefano was fascinating and delightful. Reading his reactions as Stefano kept not doing what Franco expected of him helped make it clearer why Silvio would be so drawn to him.
Learning more about Silvio's past was both interesting and frustrating. It was interesting because I understand him a little better now, I think. (And, as predicted, a lot of my reaction to book 2 has changed now that I know more about what Silvio's life was like before Battista. I get now that Battista was a safety-net for Silvio, providing him the anchor he needed for as many years as he was able. It makes me look at their relationship totally differently. It also makes me want to know more about Battista...)
It was also frustrating, because I want to know more than the little glimpses we've been given. It's like (to go with the darkness theme) Silvio's past is blackness that every once in a while has a flashlight shine on it. The light is temporary and sporadic, so we have a vague idea of what might be there, but there is still much more that is dark and unknown. I want to know more!
And on that note, I'm off to start book 4