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Tapestry of Dark Souls by Elaine Bergstrom

Posted by travizzt on October 26, 2010

Tapestry of Dark Souls is the darkest, most disturbing novel in the Ravenloft novel line. But will you allow yourself to give into evil or should you let the moths take care of it?

Tapestry of Dark Souls by Elaine Bergstrom This is the fifth book released in the Ravenloft line of novels that is based of the Ravenloft setting of the pen and paper role-playing game Dungeons and Dragons. It was also released in 2007 under the Ravenloft: The Covenant line of novels. This is also a stand-alone novel and can be read without any prior knowledge of the setting or events. Elaine Bergstrom has written one other Ravenloft novel which is titled Baroness of Blood. She wrote the Austra Family series (Shattered Glass, Blood Alone, Blood Rites, Daughter of the Night, and Nocturne), two books that continue the Dracula story titled Mina and Blood to Blood, and wrote a novel titled The Door Through Washington Square. She wrote two novels under the name Marie Kiraly titled Leanna: Possession of a Woman and Madeline: After the Fall of User. She also contributed a few short stories to various anthologies. Tapestry of Dark Souls was originally released in March 1993 and published by TSR, Inc. it was re-released in June 2007 and published then by Wizards of the Coast LLC. However, this book is hard to find and you’ll likely need to pick it up used.
An order of monks are tasked to keep safe an object of unspeakable evil. The object, a tapestry, lures those of evil intentions to its threads, absorbing them. The order of monks, The Guardians, are the only line of defense against the tapestry’s power. However, when a couple mysteriously arrive in the land known as Markovia they are drawn to the tapestry. After successfully stealing the tapestry, the couple make their way to the neighboring country of Tepest. Upon arriving the wife, Leith, finds out that her husband, Vhar, stole the tapestry. She becomes possessed by it, almost killing her husband and escapes to try to return the tapestry, but not before it consumes Vhar. As she makes her way back, she encounters a wolf which bites her. Even with the bite, she manages to make it back, but the tapestry has other plans for her. With the help of the Guardians, she recovers. She returns to Tepest and discovers she is pregnant. After a horrific experience, she runs to the safety of the Guardians and after having her child, she vanishes. The child, Jonathan, may be the Guardians only chance of controlling and stopping the tapestry. However, he may be the one to release its evil into the world.

1) Slow. The biggest issue with Tapestry of Dark Souls is how slowly everything progresses. It wasn’t until the last fifty or so pages that the book became hard to set down for too long. For the most part, the novel took it’s time to build up the atmosphere and the setting. However, because of this, even during the most action heavy, faster paced scenes seemed to go on for far longer than they should have. Even with a story that was really interesting, and at times engaging, it felt as though nothing was happening. There were even times that when something important was about to happen, it felt like it was drawn out for pages. There were times when I felt as though the novel would never end. With the pacing being this slow, it was hard to get the motivation to read.
2) Father’s Parts. This is a minor complaint but it did annoy me after the first use. The book is split into three sections, which tells the tale of the person the section was named after. For the first section it focuses on Leith and the second section focuses on Jonathan. It’s in the second section that before each chapter, a little italicize paragraph is written from the view of Jonathan’s father. At first, these were clever and built up the father’s character. However, they soon became rambling affairs of the same thing being re-said over and over. It became annoying and quickly took away from the overall feel the chapter and story were trying to convey. There were times when it would spoil some future events. These sections of text become annoying and boring quickly.

1) Characters. The characters were all very interesting, to say the least. Each character had their own motivations and they never really seemed to be generic creations (with a few exceptions). Each character seemed to be a new person with their own agendas and plans. Also, each character played an important part of the overall story. For example, Leith showed us how powerful and seductive the tapestry can be. She also seemed to go through the most change. She started off as a ‘good wife’, doing as her husband asked but we quickly see her change, due mostly to the tapestry. Then after that ordeal, she goes to live with a bard by the name of Maeve and we start to see another side of Leith. While Leith goes through the most change, the others are no less unique. With the main character, Jonathan we see his loyalties switch from those who raised him to his father, his struggle with power and the consequences of that power, and how he treats those he loves. With the rest of the cast of characters, they all felt like they belonged there and played an important role in the story.
2) Story. The story was very interesting. I didn’t know what to expect before reading Tapestry of Dark Souls nor could I guess at the things to come. The first part of the story that focused on Leith never really felt straightforward, and kept me guessing on what is going to happen from chapter to chapter and scene to scene. With the second part, focusing on Jonathan, it felt like an almost different story. We see how he grows and develops into a power spell-caster with an uncertain future. With the third part, the stories merge and everything comes to a head. The three parts all seem to progress naturally, with nothing seeming to be forced in to help move the plot along.
3) Atmosphere. Tapestry of Dark Souls had an atmosphere that was very unlike previous Ravenloft novels. This is the darkest, most depressing book in the Ravenloft line to this point. While it still had the Gothic horror feel, there was a darker, more sinister ring to the story. The things that occur in this book, along with what some of the characters do, are really disturbing and frightening. All these things create a setting so vile, so wrong that it felt right. After reading the first four books in the Ravenloft series, nothing really seemed to be all that terrifying. There were times in those books that were, but with Tapestry of Dark Souls everything seems terrifying. You start to worry about villagers that go out into the woods, knowing that they probably will never return. Everything helps build the setting as something terrifying, and that no one is truly untouched by evil.

Side Notes:
1) Mature Subjects. This book does contain some very disturbing and mature subjects. TO be more specific, there is rape and infanticide.
2) Were-creatures. I didn’t know that if your father was a werewolf and your mother was another kind of were-creature that you would have the ability to transform into either form.
3) Cover Art. The original cover art is pretty bland. You have one of the Guardians holding up the tapestry and that’s about it. The Guardian and the tapestry do look nice, but in a generic way. The background is what bothers me the most. It’s just a window, and I feel like there should have been something in the skyline. However, I do like the subtle faces that you see in the tapestry, those are a nice touch. As for the re-release cover (below) it’s bad. It’s bland. There’s too much white in the background and the figure in the center (is it Jonathan?) looks plain stupid. The tapestry’s still there but it looks so bland and boring. Overall, the original cover art is better by a long shot, but it’s still generic.

Overall: 4/5
Final Thoughts:
Tapestry of Dark Souls is good, yet disturbing. The way the plot progresses is way too slow and at times I did become bored with an otherwise interesting story. If the pacing would have been a little faster, it would have been a very enjoyable read. The characters were all very interesting. They all fit their roles and they were all unique from one another. The story was very enjoyable as well. It kept me guessing at what is going to happen and everything tied together nicely. However, the Father’s view in Jonathan’s scenes quickly became boring and annoying. Even with the few spoilers that were given from those scenes, the story still held my attention. Also, this story didn’t feel like the previous Ravenloft stories. Instead this seemed more evil, more like a horror novel. All in all, would I recommend you picking this story up? It depends. If you can get past some of the more mature themes, and like horror than yes, otherwise it’s best to avoid Tapestry of Dark Souls.

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