Book Review: The Black Church by Toby Tate

18754537Title: The Black Church
Author: Toby Tate
Genre: Horror, Novella, Dark Fiction
Age Group: Adult
Rating: 3,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher through Netgalley.

When Daniel Ivanov’s father dies in a freak accident, he inherits all his worldly possessions, including a hand-woven Anatolian prayer rug whose bright colors and elaborate designs have been flawlessly preserved over the past 600 years.

But the young lawyer soon learns the ageless tapestry is much more than it seems when he begins to see the terror-stricken faces of his loved ones within its intricate patterns. And he is suddenly plagued by vivid dreams and dark visions of a mysterious Black Church standing amid mist-shrouded mountains.

As his life unravels around him, Daniel descends into a pit of madness and terror, driven by an ancient curse that threatens to destroy everything and everyone he loves, unless he can uncover its terrible secret.

The Black Church is a typical example of a novella that should’ve been a novel if it wanted to have any real impact. Alas, as it now stands, the story is simply too short to explain everything properly, or to set up a scary momentum. While the plot itself was okay, and the idea behind it was actually pretty awesome, it never turned into a terrifying story. For that, it was over too soon.

Daniel Ivanov inherits all his Dad’s possessions, including an Anatolian prayer rug. He’s already dreamed about his father warned him to burn the rug, so it’s a mystery to me why he just doens’t go ahead and burn it already. Since most of his family died in freak accidents, you’d think he’d pay more attention to a message from beyond the grave.

Soon after Daniel puts the rug into his living room, part of it transforms into his girlfriend’s face. He thinks it’s a trick of his mind, probably due to still being devastated over his father’s dead. However, his girlfriend dies soon after.

Instead of burning the rug, like any sane person would do, Daniel doesn’t do anything at all. Then he meets up with a friend of his, and seconds later the friend’s face appears in the rug. You can guess what happens next. Meanwhile, Daniel gets plagued by dreams of the past, and of a church in Bulgaria.

While the story is original, and the plot was decent, it leaves much to be desired. None of the characters are developed at all, except for Daniel. Their sole purpose is to come up on stage, and then die. We hear about Daniel’s girlfriend in one chapter, next chapter she dies. Same for his friend. I don’t want to give away too much spoilers, but that gets predictable fast. It also means we’re not invested in any of the characters. Daniel is the only character we care for, so if the others die off, they didn’t get more than a shrug from me.

That’s why I think the book would’ve been better suited as a novel. If we got to know the characters, if the faces appearing didn’t happen so fast after one another – leave a few months at least – then it would’ve been a great story. Now it was pleasant, but nothing more than that.


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