Review by Demonesse
This review is for the Fantastical Tarot, which
well deserves its name. At a glance, its beautiful gold
border (with art deco detail in black) and lovely back -
the famed reversible powder-and-aqua blue dragon
against a field of deep blue, captivated me. It is the
best card back I've seen thus far. (However, to my
dismay I find the gold border easily chipped, especially
at the edges, so handle with extreme care.) The cards
are well-sized but slippery and it takes some
practice to master them. The numbering and suit names
adhere to the Rider-Waite, while Court Cards are Page,
Knight, Queen and King. The names of the cards are at the
bottom. The Queen of Wands is on the front of the
Fantastical's box, and the Magician on the back.
As for the
art, the Major Arcana is riveting - colourful, gaunt
figures with closed eyes dance across the cards. Another
thing worth noting is that some of them - Magician,
Knights - have spirals tattooed on their faces and arms. I
find the art beautiful, greatly detailed, and not
without a touch of humour. This deck is a contradiction.
When it's good, it's very, very good. When it's bad,
it's not horrible or childish, but a pathetic shadow of
what it could have been. Confused? Read on.
Magician is my favourite card, done in shades of blue and
gold - he hurls the four suit signs upwards and holds
them in thrall, a claw reaching upwards while the sky
swirls behind. Justice is equally impressive. While most
Justice depictions are regal and cool and seem to carry
themselves with the aura of Queens, she slumps against her
sword; I found this one extremely evocative, especially
in an age where true justice is all but dead. The Sun
blazes with unleashed energy, and the Emperor is
imperious, expecting your deference.
But they are often
unrepresentative of their meanings, on the flipside. Take the Fool.
He looks like something out of a nightmare - no na´ve
youth here, but a mocking, simpering joker with a
somewhat feminine posture, the body of an old tree trunk
and nasty plans hidden behind his too-wide grin. There
isn't even a cliff. To me the Fool is the most menacing
card in the deck; he reminds me very much of the
Vampire's Fool, especially since they share a similar
creator in Nathalie Hertz. (Personally, and not from a
general view, I like the Fool, because I like the gothic
art style.) The Empress does not look fertile at all -
compare her to the Mythic's Empress and you'd think of a
barren winter moor compared to a summer field. Then
again, gaunt figures are an art theme in this deck. They also
often lack traditional symbols you have come to
expect. The Tower looks ominous indeed, but lacks that
all-important streak of lightning, and the High Priestess'
peacock must have gone into the pot. Yet, without
exception, they are all beautiful.
The Minors are not as
successful, compared to the Majors. To me, the Minors must
especially be representative of the meanings, whilst I can
excuse a few creative liberties in the Majors purely
because the Majors' meanings are easier to read (for me)
but the Minors must be crystal-clear. For another
thing, many are not well drawn, in artistic terms. For
example, the Five of Pentacles does show two old men in
patched jackets, but they have glasses of wine and a
roaring fire - this is contradictory and they don't seem
all that pathetic to me. The Ten of Wands, possibly
the worst-drawn card in the whole deck, is an
inconclusive-, indefinite-looking card to me. It shows a man
simply standing between ten wands, depicting not at all
the heavy, burdensome feeling of this card.
Unfortunately, the artist seems to get lazy sometimes and draws
far too many figures just standing (argh!) with the
suit symbol - the Three, Six, Seven and Ten of Wands,
Now for the individual suits as a whole.
The Wands and Pentacles are a letdown. I like the
overall look of the Wands, dark and rich, but the
yellow-and brown Pentacles suit was a disappointment, the
biggest fly in my ointment. The Wands look like carved
staves with rounded ends, also bearing a similarity to
the Vampire's wands. Pentacles look like shiny golden
cymbals. I find I don't care much for the Pentacles,
preferring the Pentacles to be more like something in the
Londa Tarot - pentagrams.
However, the look of the
Pentacles themselves doesn't bother me so much as the
overall pictures. The Pentacles suit seems to lack detail
- the representations of the meanings are weak (Six
of Pentacles, lucky windfall? Looks like a sleepy old
man to me) but the Eight is well done. One thing I DO
like, though, is the way the artist has drawn the pentacles when
they are being juggled - there is a floaty quality
about them I like.
The Cups (colourful and bright) and
the Swords (dark and cool colours) are the saving
graces. Butterflies and green fields abound in the jeweled
chalices of the Cups suit. The Four of Cups spells despair,
and the Nine of Cups is truly a treasure trove worth
of wishes. Have a look at the Ten, though. Are they
really doing what I think they're doing? As for the
Swords, they are gleaming sharp, while the figures here
look even more gaunt than usual for the Fantastical.
You feel so sorry for the man in the Five, and the
King looks about to murder someone. The Three of
Swords, however, is lousy. I would prefer the traditional
swords through the heart.
All the Aces and Court Cards
are nice - I especially like the Aces, which show the
suit symbol upright on the ground, and a field behind.
The Knights, which, if are all pictured against a
night sky (as Wicce notes on her site: nice pun on the
knight/night thing) are womanly but have long beards ;) The
Kings and Queens look distinctive and have a range of
(mostly sombre) facial expressions, too. Take a look at
the Queen of Wands' super-long eyelashes and fancy
hairstyle in huge russet pigtails. As for the LWB, the Queen
of Cups is on the cover. It gives two spreads (CC and
Venus Spread), and is generally well-written, with short
paragraphs on each of the Major illustrations, but some of
the meanings given, especially for the Minors, clash
with the ones I am familiar with.
In conclusion, I
like this deck. Very much. But I wish it could have
become THE deck, instead of slipping and sliding on its
way to gothic-inspired glory.