Review: Obsidian and Blood

What’s better than buying and reading one book in a series? Buying and reading one book that contains all the books in a series for the price of a single book. I’ve been in the mood for some genre-busting lately, but I think that few books (at least, few genre books, literature seems built around this idea that it’s not in any particular genre) can pull it off in a way so that it feels like care and attention has been given to all aspects of the book. Too often, I’ve found that books that combine genres tend to sacrifice one to give more attention to the other (paranormal romance is a notable offender, sacrificing the paranormal part to go straight to the romance) and books that combine genres but don’t seem to fit into any one genre run the risk of, I think, trying to do too many things at once. A quick note before I launch into the usual dramatic plot summary and such. I could (as I usually do with anthologies) comment on each novel in turn, but truth be told, I think I have more to say about the complete series than the individual parts, and talking about the books in general will avoid spoiling the events of the individual novels.

Obsidian and Blood contains all three novels starring Acatl, High Priest of the Dead in pre-Conquest Tenochtitlan: Servant of the Underworld, Harbinger of the Storm, and Master of the House of Darts. Acatl isn’t your typical detective, in fact, most of the time he only gives dead bodies a cursory examination and then sends them on their way with the proper rites, but somehow he keeps ending up investigating cases involving murder and magical mayhem. The first book begins with a classic locked room mystery, with Acatl searching for a missing priestess that quickly becomes more personal. He is assisted throughout the series by Teomitl, who is Acatl’s opposite in many ways: more impulsive and brash while Acatl is more level-headed. Other important characters include Mihmatini, Acatl’s sister, Ceyaxochitl, Guardian of the Sacred Precinct, who basically serves as a sort of Chief of Police, and Neutemoc, Acatl’s older brother who is a member of the prestigious Jaguar Knights. I like Acatl as a character, I appreciate characters with a good head on their shoulders, and Acatl increasingly plays the role of the voice of reason throughout the series. Other characters grew on me, like Acamapichtli, High Priest of Tlaloc, who is practically a walking pile of snarky lines (especially in the third book). I didn’t feel like they were especially complex characters, somewhat one dimensional, reliable, shall we say, but I would say the focus isn’t so much on the characters themselves as the world they inhabit.

The world is very interesting. I haven’t read a whole lot of fiction set in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica and I only know a smattering of details about Aztec culture. The Obsidian and Blood series adds an element of the fantastic, with deities living in the mortal world, priests performing magical rituals, and human sacrifice that literally sustains the Fifth World. Human sacrifice is not treated as horrifying, as it usually is by the majority of media portrayals featuring the Aztecs, but as a normal part of the world, with the sacrifices themselves seeing it as a great honor. The book is also refreshingly near devoid of romance subplots, as Acatl is a celibate priest who is not permitted to have children, although Teomitl does have a bit of one. The high point of the series for me was, funnily enough, the second book. The first book did the usual job of first books: setting things up and reaching a satisfying conclusion by the end of the book, but I wasn’t really as engaged by the mystery as I was in the second book, and I felt the third book fell flat in many areas, to the point where it took me way more time to read it than the previous books. I did have two major issues with the omnibus.

The first is that I feel as if fans of fantasy will get more out of this book than mystery readers. At times it just seemed like Acatl solved the mysteries in the series by running around and talking to people until something out of the ordinary happened like he was in the average JRPG. Don’t get me wrong, the mysteries are all eventually solved and there’s usually a twist or two to keep you on your toes, but those of you expecting a bit more detective work will probably be disappointed. The other issue I had was with the writing itself. English is the author’s second language, and the books are not unreadable by any means (in fact, I’ve read way worse from native English speakers), but at times I found the dialogue didn’t make a whole lot of sense or some word choices were kind of awkward. it definitely didn’t deter me in the same way that The School for Good and Evil did, but it could get very distracting and the book could have used some more careful editing. I also found the writing very non-descriptive, more focused on the characters than describing their surroundings, which in itself is not a bad thing, it’s just very to the point kind of prose.

Diversity wise there’s really not much to say as this is set in pre-Columbian Aztec society where everyone is brown and white people haven’t yet arrived to really screw over the Fifth World. There are no queer characters to speak of but considering the little I know about Aztec society doesn’t exactly paint it as a queer-friendly society I’d almost prefer the erasure.

In terms of potentially triggery things, as I said before, human as well as animal sacrifice is a completely normal thing in Mexica culture, and animals in particular are sacrificed a lot throughout the series. There’s also a fair amount of violence and descriptions of dead bodies and what has been done to them. Overall, I liked Obsidian and Blood even though I thought it fell a little flat at the end, and I would say that all things considered it is an interesting mix of a few different genres and the premise for her new novel, involving “a devastated Belle Epoque Paris split between quasi-feudal Houses, addictive magic, dragons–and entirely too many dead bodies!” sounds like it’s definitely worth a look if you like this.

Marthese reviews The Eldermaid by K.Henderson

gefnsdottir:

Marthese at The Lesbrary reviews The Eldermaid.

Originally posted on The Lesbrary:

eldermaid

“Death is never more than a breath away”

I binge read this book in a day! I had wanted to read this book as soon as I read the blurb, but, well, I was late for my review. It helped that it was a very enjoyable story that made you want to read more. This story is short and is a mixture of Fantasy and Adventure, but not the epic kind, more like the kind where the protagonists are always curious and searching for answers.

This story is told from the perspective of Hedda and spans from her childhood onwards. In this world, most deities left the Earth, but left in their stead countless spirits with different elemental powers. There are three types of spirits: maids, knights and jacks. Hedda bonds at a young age with an Eldermaid, although not the one she thought she would at first. When spirits…

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Game Review: Life is Strange (Episode 1)

This game has been on my radar for a bit but until now it just kind of sat on my wishlist. At the time I added it, I still had my faithful old PC that ran retro games like a champ but couldn’t run anything else.

Now that I have a shiny new PC, however, I can get back to playing some more tech heavy games, and this one’s been on my radar for a bit (especially since angry dudebros seem convinced that it’s part of some feminist conspiracy to ruin gaming).

Sadly, Life is Strange isn’t the misandrist fantasy the Steam forums are painting it as (although it’s not anti-feminist by any means) but what it is is a pretty solid adventure game with interesting choices and potentially very interesting consequences. 

Life is Strange is an episodic point and click adventure game where you play as Max, a photography student who ends up saving her friend Chloe’s life by discovering that she has the power to rewind time. The pair soon find themselves exposed to the darker side of their town as they begin to uncover the truth behind the disappearance of a missing student while Max struggles to come to terms with her mysterious power.

Life is Strange is a cross between teen drama shows like Dawson’s Creek with a bit of The Longest Journey, and the game covers a whole slew of issues from teen pregnancy to mental illness to conflicts with authority figures, but the time travel mechanic adds an interesting layer of choice and consequence and turns save scumming into an actual game mechanic. Basically, you’re free to rewind time as often as you want, but when you reach a certain point (when you move to the next area) your choices are locked in and you can’t go back and change them. The game also indicates when you’ve made a choice that will have consequences later, either later in the episode and/or later in the game. For me, the appearance of the butterfly warning me that my actions would have consequences was actually kind of ominous, and unlike Telltale adventure games, you generally aren’t forced to make snap decisions (although one instance in the episode is timed) and can take your time agonizing over which choice to make. Are you nice to the girl who is constantly bullying you, or do you add insult to injury when she’s embarrassed in front of her friends? Do you warn someone when they’re about to be hit by a stray football? Do you poke around in places you probably shouldn’t be poking around in? There are many choices in the first episode alone, some of which (such as watering your plant) I didn’t encounter at all, and characters will remember your actions. In my case, I tried to be polite and helpful, but ended up not endearing myself to a character who turned out to have a pretty important role to play in the episode.

Graphically the game is pretty and the licensed soundtrack is awesome and I feel is especially appropriate for the setting.

If I had one criticism of Life is Strange, it’s that Max can come across as kind of hipster-ish and pretentious (although she herself admits that she is kind of a hipster) which might not be out of the ordinary for a typical teenage girl (it’s been a long time since I was a teenager) but in the end it didn’t really detract from my enjoyment of the first episode.

In terms of potentially triggery things there’s some violence against women, and in the second instance the perpetrator says that the victim “deserved” to be slapped, a mention of an attempted rape, and a portrayal of someone who is possibly dealing with some form of mental illness being violent and aggressive.

Overall, Life is Strange sometimes suffers from pretentious-sounding dialogue but it’s a solid adventure game with plenty of teen drama and a nice time travel mechanic to keep things interesting and choices which seem to matter in the grand scheme of things. If you like Telltale’s adventure games but which there was a bit more realism to them or you enjoy(ed) shows like Dawson’s Creek, this will probably be right up your alley. Even if you’re not a fan of the sort of high school drama I’m talking about (I wasn’t) but you want a well-crafted adventure game to sink your teeth into, I’d encourage you to check this one out.

Review: Dark Legacy (Hidden Heritage #2)

I should note that, as with Dark Hollow, I obtained a copy of this book for free through Goodreads’ First Reads feature.

I don’t have much to say in terms of introduction so let’s jump straight to the review.

You’re forgiven if you thought this was a cover for a Jupiter Ascending novel.

Dark Legacy picks up right where Dark Hollow left off, with Tabitha going to meet her father, a prominent politician in Caska. Although she is initially pampered and treated with the utmost respect, as is the way of so many other stories of this type, all is not as it seems, and for Tabitha, betrayal hits close to home.

On some level, I don’t mind cliche plots as long as they’re well executed. The problem with Dark Legacy is that it’s not well executed at all. Although the writing has improved since the last book, it’s still awkward and dull. One particular scene of note is the scene in which Tabitha encounters Katie, a pregnant teenager being cared for by her father’s underlings. I was under the impression that Katie’s dialogue is supposed to indicate that she, like many teenagers, talks a mile a minute, but the way her dialogue is presented is just plain confusing on the level of “I don’t know what the heck is going on here” I had to read the passage at least three times to make sense of it. Occasionally the prose does become a bit purple, in a notable case, Antoine’s description of Tabitha’s mother when she was young, with long white hair and golden brown eyes (a description that could have come out of an anime or the sort of fanfics you probably wrote as a teenager) made me laugh, it just sounded so ridiculous. The book also suffers from the same problem that plagued the last book, namely that characters don’t act like you would expect someone in their age group in their circumstances would act.

As with the first book, Dark Legacy suffers from a major case of telling instead of showing. We’re told, for instance, that the townspeople speak highly of Tabitha’s father, but also that they are afraid of him, because of course. The way to make a “Town/Political Entity/Pet Rat with a Dark Secret” plot interesting is subtlety, a sort of “wrongness” that lurks in the back of the protagonist’s mind until it’s too late, and they’re caught in it. Unfortunately Dark Legacy doesn’t even attempt to do that, it’s blatantly obvious where the plot is going.

As if the uninspired writing and the cliched plot weren’t bad enough, the book also has some glaring formatting issues. For instance, I noticed Berton was accidentally rendered as “BertOn” (with an accent on the O) as if the author replaced the character in MS Word with the wrong symbol. Once wouldn’t have been much of an issue, but this typo showed up about six times in one chapter, which is something an editor really should have caught. Some of the chapter titles are written with numbers rather than words (Chapter 18 instead of Eighteen) which is again something an editor should have caught. I also noticed that the “About the Author” section is identical to the one on the back cover of the first book. This wouldn’t be an issue normally except for the fact that it kept the line about this being her first book. Again, they aren’t huge issues but they are definitely jarring.

While I have definitely read worse, Dark Legacy certainly isn’t on my top ten list or even my “so bad its good” list. Between the awkward and dull prose, cliche plot, and general habit of telling instead of showing, I’m not feeling compelled in the least to pick up the next installment in the series.

Disconnected

There are times when I feel very disconnected from my religious communities: from the Pagan community (if it can even be called that) and certainly from the Heathen community. I’ve always been the sort of person to go off and do my own thing, but eventually, I’ve discovered, I’ll want to connect with other people and talk about religion, and I’ll do that and for a time I’ll be content with that.

But then, inevitably, I’ll start feeling like I don’t belong in some spaces. I don’t feel comfortable in heavily Wiccanate Pagan spaces because I don’t identify with that tradition, I don’t feel comfortable in Heathen spaces because so much of what I do doesn’t look like what they do, even though we honor the same deities, and I don’t feel comfortable in devotional polytheist spaces because I feel like that term has been co-opted by the sort of folks who really don’t give a shit about people but who simultaneously complain when people don’t give them the time of day, and as someone who honours “people” deities, I like to think they’d like me to give a shit about people.

In any case, what this means is that I pretty much go back to doing my own thing.

I think what needs to happen is that I need to recognize that I do my own thing, and that is okay, and that engaging with other people doesn’t mean I have to have beliefs that match up with theirs. It sounds like such a simple thing to do, and yet, in my experience, it doesn’t often go that way.

Review: The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Fairy Tales

You’ll recall from my review of The School for Good and Evil that I am a fairy tale enthusiast, so when I heard that Penguin was publishing stories from a collection compiled by Franz Xaver Von Schonwerth–lost until very recently–which would mark the first time these tales were available in English, I knew I needed to add it to my collection.

In the 1850s, Schonwerth travelled all over northern Bavaria recording fairy tales, many of these tales were told to him by labourers, women and weavers, people who expressed disbelief that a learned man like Schonwerth would be interested in their stories. This book includes over seventy of the stories that he collected. The stories in this book are divided into several categories: Tales of Magic and Romance, Enchanted Animals, Otherworldly Creatures, Legends, Tall Tales and Anecdotes, and Tales About Nature. Most of the stories are only a couple pages long.

Some of the stories in this collection will be familiar to many readers, and include variations of tales like “Cinderella”, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin”, “The Devil’s Three Gold Hairs”, “The Clever Tailor”, and “Our Lady’s Child”. In fact, it would be interesting to compare these stories side by side with a book of fairy tales by the Grimms.  Some stories have recognizable mythological motifs, such as the princess turned dragon who is burned three times in order to transform her back into a human, a woman who trades sex with a dwarf for a necklace (their names indicate that they are thin disguises for Odin and Frigga or Freyja), to golden apples and friendly ice giants. I was pleasantly surprised to find a variant of a Finnish story where a boy makes a bargain with the devil that whoever loses their temper first will obtain enough skin off the loser’s back to make a pair of boots, only in this story, a priest is the villain and the prize is gold. There were also plenty of stories I’d never heard of before, such as one where a mother rescues her children from mermaids with the help of a magic belt and necklace.

Many readers will be happy to hear that unlike their more famous counterparts, these stories haven’t been subject to censoring. Some of the protagonists are far from heroic (including one who is a serial killer) and some of the stories end on depressing notes or wouldn’t be out of place as a modern horror movie. Although the tales are more violent than sexual (a woman moons one of the protagonists in one of the stories), the stories don’t sugarcoat the violence and at least one story is a darkly comedic yarn involving a corpse stuffed in a trunk, and while encounters with wood sprites are usually benign, there are at least seven stories in this collection featuring evil mermaids, Bavarian storytellers have something against mermaids, apparently. Some stories feature unlikely allies: beetles, weasels, and even the devil himself help out protagonists who are down on their luck.

The stories also address class conflicts (those of you who are interested in discussions of class and fairy tales need this collection, because there’s a lot of it) and do some interesting things with gender. Heroes are just as likely to faint when frightened as heroines, heroines rescue their lovers or family members, and in “The Scorned Princess” a hero gets his happy ending by burning down the titular princess’ city (killing her and the entire court in the process) and reigns as king over the country.

Some of my favourite stories in this collection include “The Figs” which contains elements of a tale I loved as a child called “The White Snake” and also involves the hero making friends with Death and the devil, “The Enchanted Quill” where the heroine obtains a magic quill from an enchanted crow, “The Scorned Princess”, “The Belt and the Necklace” where a woman rescues her children from mermaids, “Tricking the Witch” where a princess defeats a witch by cutting her way out of her stomach, and “The Ice Giants” where the titular ice giants end up marrying mortal women and having ice giant children.

The only negative thing that I have to say about this book is that some of the stories might be a little confusing for some readers. Sometimes plot elements are introduced seemingly at random, and some things just aren’t explained even by fairy tale logic, which is frequently bizarre but makes sense if you can accept that talking animals and magical fruit exists. The translator also chose to insert some modern phrases into the text which, while they aren’t especially jarring, might look odd to people who are used to translations with flowery language.  However, if you are at all interested in fairy tales, or particularly if you’re interested in Bavarian folk and fairy tales, you need this book in your life, trust me on this. This review can’t do these wonderful stories justice. Do yourself a favour and pick this one up, it’s a rare glimpse into a world of enchantment that hasn’t been butchered into an attempt to make it “child-friendly”.

Review: The Divine Feminine in Ancient Europe: Goddesses, Sacred Women, and the Origins of Western Culture

Even though I don’t consider myself a “Goddessian” anymore, I’m always interested in books about goddesses and the role of women in religion. Last year, I reviewed Celtic Myth and Religion by Sharon Paice MacLeod and liked it despite its flaws, so when I saw she had written a book on Goddesses and women in European history, I was very interested in it.

As the title of the book suggests, this is a book about goddesses, priestesses, and other important women in European religious history. Each chapter covers a specific time period from prehistory (starting from the Paleolithic) to the early Medieval period. Each chapter begins with a short narrative based on sources about daily life in that period to set the stage for the chapter before delving into archaeological finds of interest and speculating as to what these artifacts may have meant to the people who created them by looking at practices and beliefs of present day indigenous cultures, as well as textual evidence where available. The topics she covers range from how humans impacted the environment in the Mesolithic area to our genetic ancestry to ritual art and music. The author argues that European cultures are influenced not solely–or even chiefly–by Greek and Roman culture, but by a rich tapestry of many different traditions.

For the most part, I feel the author tried to remain objective when discussing prehistoric artifacts. She dismisses the popular “Golden Age Matriarchy” theory that we’ve all heard before right off the bat, citing evidence of interpersonal violence in Neolithic settlements. She also attacks the notion that are prehistoric Images depict mother goddesses (assuming they depict goddesses in the first place) or fertility deities, also noting that this tendency erases other roles that women in these communities may have held that aren’t necessarily related to motherhood, such as priestesses or leaders of their communities.

Since I’m not familiar with current research on life in prehistoric times, I found those chapters interesting. A lot of Pagan 101 texts seem to treat prehistory as if it was one continuous line of “goddess worship” until The Patriarchy came. The picture that this book paints, however, is a fascinating one where changes in the environment during the Mesolithic brought significant changes to the way people lived and the artwork they created (the author notes that there is a lack of female figurines from this period when compared to Paleolithic or Neolithic artifacts, for instance).

I’m a bit more familiar with Celtic traditions and Norse things, which are also covered in the book, although I found the chapters on Celtic traditions to basically be a rehashing of the material in Celtic Myth and Religion (which she cites constantly). The section on Norse traditions wasn’t anything I already knew. I did notice that she spent a lot of time talking about how Roman writers viewed these cultures instead of looking at their material culture.

As for things I didn’t like about this book, I found the narratives at the beginning of each chapter more cheesy than mood-setting. A consistent annoyance for me was how the author would frequently segue into discussing the evils of technology and the need for people of European descent to reclaim their spiritual roots. Unfortunately, the message comes across as very “noble savage”=y, as she constantly talks about indigenous traditions and their connection to nature and knowledge that Westerners of European descent have lost. She also begins each chapter with a quote from an indigenous speaker or activist in order to set the “theme” for the chapter. I would understand if this was a book about indigenous traditions around the world, but since it is a book specifically about European traditions it struck me as inappropriate. I found it particularly jarring because her previous book wasn’t feel preachy at all (probably because it was written explicitly for students). I also found it kind of funny that she scoffs at modern druid orders while claiming to be a “Western neoshamanic practitioner” (paraphrased).

Honestly, i think this book could have benefited from a more academic tone and less preaching about how Westerners have “lost their way”. I can’t even really say who I would recommend this to, perhaps someone who is interested in the divine feminine (I hate this term, btw) whose only exposure to writings on prehistory is a Llewellyn Pagan 101 book, but for the price of this book you could buy one by someone who really knows their stuff. Celtic Myth and Religion is, in my opinion, a far better book if you’re looking for info on those traditions specifically. But honestly, between the noble savage schtick, the preaching, and the price (cheap for an academic book, expensive for a non-academic book), I can’t see a lot of people clamoring to pick this one up. It’s not a terrible book, but it definitely could have been much better.

Review: Dark Hollow

Late last year I discovered a wondrous thing: Goodreads giveaways, where you can get free books just for providing a mailing address (the author and publisher pay for shipping). I’ve been entering these giveaways nonstop since I discovered they existed. This is how I obtained a copy of Dark Hollow, the debut novel of Indy author Tara Winters.

From an early age, Tabitha Devins has been aware of the fact that she possesses extraordinary powers. At eighteen, she’s been looking forward to leaving the island of Porta Negra and heading to college, away from her emotionally distant mother.

However, just before she’s about to set out, her mother disappears, leaving her with more questions than answers. Her search for her mother will take her through a mysterious portal to a parallel world where she discovers people with abilities much like her own. Unfortunately for her, others are also seeking her and her mother, and their intentions might not be as benign as they claim.

I thought the concept was interesting. The world of Caska is much like our world, only weather patterns and such have altered it in ways that make it distinct from Tabitha’s world (for example, Tabitha’s island home is a peninsula in the alternate universe. The Caskans haven’t domesticated dogs, but they have pet wolves, and they share their world with other races like elves and the  fae Faye, and, of course, Caskans have l33t powers that are pretty standard fantastical powers fare: healing, telepathy, telekinesis, the usual.

Unfortunately, this is yet another instance that while the concept is interesting, the execution is another story. The writing leaves something to be desired. The dialogue is awkward and at times doesn’t make any sense. Here is a quote that’s just one example among many of the quality of writing in this book:

“You forget yourself, Berton. It is not polite not to include your guest in your conversations,” the little woman scolded. Sybille stepped forward and nodded to Tabitha. Tabitha was immediately relaxed by the shy smile the tiny woman shared with her. As tall and masculine as her husband was, Sybille was petite, her head barely up to his shoulder. Her deep black hair hung in a long, straight curtain down her back.Her face was small and round, her nose tiny and upturned, her small mouth delicate, Her eyes were radiant silver, and her skin was pale, as opposed to the golden tones of the two men. She hardly appeared to be old enough to be Luc’s stepmother.”

If there were just a few moments where the text was this awkward I could live with it. After all, I love An Intimate History of the Greater Kingdoms series, and that series isn’t known for its stellar writing either, but here the writing is just plain dull, and because of that, the characterization suffers. The dialogue also suffers from a lack of contractions, which has the effect of making teenage and child characters sound like they’re from the Middle Ages. Tabitha also doesn’t sound or “feel” eighteen, she comes across as a twenty or thirty something woman at best, and this is coming from someone who has difficulty keeping track of a character ages. In another case, I was confused as to whether a child character was an infant or a child with Down’s Syndrome or a similar condition, because while she seemed old enough to indicate that she wanted more cereal, she doesn’t really seem to do much else but smile and sleep. Again, tighter writing and scrupulous editing would have helped clarify a great many things in this book, but as it is I found myself reading sentences over several times and just outright scratching my head trying to figure out what the author was trying to say. Also the big twist at the end is so painfully obvious you can probably guess what’s going to happen, but honestly lots of books have painfully obvious twists.

In terms of diversity, well, the closest we come to characters of colour is that some of the men are described as “tanned” which, considering that I’m pretty sure everyone else is white, comes across as “white guys who spend a lot of time in the sun” rather than “character of colour”. The book is also incredibly heteronormative and falls into the problematic territory of many paranormal romance novels with the idea that women can be “claimed” by men who are, naturally, destined to be together. Also since the bonds of heterosex are sacred, other men will back off once a couple pairs off. The excuse for the lack of non-hetero orientations would undoubtedly be that Caskans have few children due to Caskan women only being able to bear one or two offspring before dying. It’s no excuse for the lack of queer psychic sort of elf people, but lack of diversity is always disappointing.

If I wasn’t also sent the sequel, I wouldn’t bother with this series anymore. The ideas in it were at least somewhat interesting, but so poorly executed (and pretty cliche, all things considered) that it’s not even in “so bad it’s good territory for me”.

Deck Review: Oracle of the Mermaids

Happy Valentine’s Day! (Or as I’m now calling it “Self Love/Self Care Day”) Since I’m emphasizing self love on this day, I thought now would be a good opportunity to review a deck I love.

I’ve been a fan of Selina Fenech’s art since I learned of the existence of the Wild Wisdom of Faery Oracle, so when I found out that she was doing the art for a mermaids deck, I knew I had to have it and it instantly went on my deck lust list.

As usual, let’s start with some technical information. The cards are large-ish: 3.67 x 5.50 inches, and are very glossy, each card has a number at the top and the title and keywords at the bottom. The cards also have a thin border in “pearl” shades. The card backs show a blonde mermaid with hair that would make Rapunzel jealous. The backs are non-reversible. The cards come in a sturdy box. Included is a 168 page companion book by Lucy Cavendish. The companion book includes instructions for a three card spread, two five card spreads, and a “Mermaid Celtic Cross” which is like a standard Celtic Cross with an extra card. I personally don’t like to use spreads with oracles, but someone else might find them useful.

The art is simply gorgeous. This is one of those decks that I’ve shown to others where they’re instantly captivated by the art. One of my absolute favourite cards in this deck is “Sanctuary” which depicts a mermaid (representing Melusine) lounging in a bathtub. Another card I loved is “Freedom” which depicts a pirate mermaid with a skull and crossbones shirt and a cutlass lying next to her. Obviously taste in arr varies, but if you liked the art in the Wild Wisdom of Faery Oracle, chances are you’ll like the art in this one too.

Honestly, I wasn’t expecting too much from the companion book. I found the companion book for the fairy oracle to be one of the fluffiest companion books I’ve ever read, and while I don’t think this one is as bad, there were still passages that raised an eyebrow or two for me. For instance, while Lucy Cavendish talks about how society creates unrealistic expectations for men (hello patriarchy), she then goes on to say that men suffer “in some ways even moreso than women” which….no…..just don’t go there. References to Atlantis and Lemuria are common in this book, and at one point there’s a jarring shift in tone from talking about relationships and the importance of taking time for yourself to talking about how Atlanteans conducted cruel experiments on the poor Lemurians. Still, I did appreciate the messages about loving yourself and setting firm boundaries.

This deck has become my self-care deck. If I’m feeling down and need a pick me up. I pull a card from this deck, although you can also use it for relationship readings. I did some readings for others and the feedback I received was that the deck was pretty accurate and helpful.

If I had any gripes with this deck, it would be that there’s not a whole lot of diversity in either body type or race (three cards clearly depict mermaids of colour), and it’s also a very heterosexual deck, with one card “Yearning” looking like a cheesy romance novel cover. I was particularly annoyed by the explanation for the “Soul Cage” card, which turned a story about the friendship between a male fisherman and a merman into a story about a man being rescued by a mermaid, and it’s actually not an old fairy tale at all, but the invention of its author, Thomas Keightley. I should also note in case anyone who follows this blog is tokophobic, but a few of the images in this deck depict pregnant mermaids.

Despite these annoyances, I really like this deck and I think any mermaid fan should check it out. It easily has the most appealing art of any of the mermaid/sea themed decks on the market for me at this time. If it had the racial diversity of, say, the World Spirit Tarot or the diverse body types of the Mythical Goddess Tarot, it would have been that much better, but as it is, it’s still a great deck, especially if you’re into mermaids.