- Author: Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
- Illustrator: Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
- Publisher: Llewellyn
- Year: 2010
- Tradition: Rider-Waite-Smith
- Minors: Illustrated
- Suits: Wands, Cups, Swords, Pentacles
- Court cards: Page, Knight, Queen, King
- Reversible: Yes
General thoughts, quality, and aesthetics
I found Shadowscapes Tarot when I was looking for something special. I’m comfortable with the Rider-Waite-Smith structure, but I didn’t want the same old Rider-Waite-Smith deck.
Done entirely in watercolor, Shadowscapes Tarot is every bit as magical as expected, and then some. The artist has revisited the imagery in every card, staying true to the RWS vision but offering her own interpretation, and while many decks have tried to do this, Shadowscapes Tarot not only manages it: it excels. The entire deck exudes this gorgeous, dream-like energy, as if the cards were speaking to one another and to the reader all at once.
Quality-wise, the card stock is smooth, flexible, easy to shuffle and of the usual size. My deck has gone through normal use (less than 300 readings) showing no wear or tear.
Because the imagery is so personal, Shadowscapes Tarot might not be the easiest deck to learn with. It’s not always clear which card is which at first glance, and the interpretations supplied in the Little White Book (or the companion book if you go with the set) are poetic but a bit too vague for beginners.
The author’s interpretation differs from the standard Rider-Waite-Smith keywords at times. Honestly, the cards’ imagery is powerful enough to speak to the reader with no booklet or keyword to back it up, RWS or custom made, but if you’re not an experienced hand, this is an important detail to note.
If experience isn’t an issue, the rich artwork, full of movement and depth, will add countless layers to any reading.
Roughly, Shadowscapes Tarot follows the Rider-Waite-Smith path. But while the meanings are mostly loyal to the original deck, the imagery is anything but. You might have a hard time finding correspondences on the surface of any pair of cards. The roots of this deck are different, and it shows beautifully. The influence of folklore, myth and faerie magic is clear, and it reflects on how the deck presents its symbols.
A curious detail: some people find certain cards in the tarot to be “dark” and even scary. However, the evocative, mythical artwork in Shadowscapes Tarot takes the inherent “darkness” of cards such as the Ten of Swords, Death, or the Tower, and gives us a fairy-tale interpretation that’s still true to the energies of each card.
If you’re using Shadowscapes Tarot to read professionally, the cards will bring a touch of dream-like energy to your reading… but most clients won’t recognize them. This can be a good thing, as it will keep their minds open and dispatch any prejudices about certain cards or combinations before they can take root, but remember some clients prefer to follow along the reading with more ease.
That said, the cards are gorgeous, and their energy all but leaps off the reading table, so they’re perfect for whimsy, quirky people, and for those who feel at home in other worlds.
Cards I love
Death must come to mind first because it’s a glorious image. The woman turning phoenix, flames enveloping the sky as she stretches her wings in this new stage of the cycle, flowers blooming in the firestorm… Death just gives me an enormous strength to face any challenge.
Then, the Six of Pentacles does a great job of depicting that generosity isn’t always about money, and that it’s a cycle of give-and-take, never flowing just in one direction. Indeed, he who gives gets just as much in return, except in a different way–in this case, the plant he waters buttresses his perch.
The Four of Pentacles is spot-on, depicting a little dragon hoarder. It’s so cute, and at the same time, it’s the perfect warning this card is meant to give us: focusing on what we have will close us off from the world and our riches will become stagnant.
The Seven of Swords conveys the idea of trickery, and of never being able to truly get away with it, better than any other deck I can think of. And the Knight of Wands is a personal favorite. Can you see the proud arrogance and determination that fuels him? I’m ready to follow him anywhere!
Cards I don’t resonate with
If I had to pick my least favorites, I’d choose them because the image doesn’t resonate with their usual meaning with me.
The Four of Wands gives me a feeling of energetic movement, and the imagery doesn’t tell me much more than that. In a deck so full of nuances and details, where gazing at a card for a few minutes draws you down into its world, it feels flat and empty.
The Nine of Pentacles, usually known as the Lady of Pentacles, transmits a feeling of peace and introspection that I hardly ever associate to her more common, proactive, successful incarnation.
A unique deck full of whimsical energy, accurate and dreamy, aligned with the RWS tradition but apart from it.