Review: Wisdom of the House of Night Oracle

I know I said I’d review Awakened before reviewing the oracle, but I’m still working my way through the offensiveness book, so it’ll have to wait, plus I’d really like to review the oracle while it’s fresh in my mind.

Wisdom of the House of Night is the latest oracle by Colette Baron-Reid (who also did The Enchanted Map, Wisdom of the Hidden Realms, and Wisdom of Avalon oracles). For this oracle, she’s teamed up with P.C. Cast to bring us an oracle based on the Casts’ House of Night series.

I have limited experience with Baron-Reid’s other oracles. I have Wisdom of the Hidden Realms, which is pretty, but the readings I get with it don’t seem to make any sense, and I refuse to shell out the cash to buy Wisdom of Avalon, because the fact that half the cards have nearly identical signposts on them with keywords is just….lazy.

I became aware of the existence of this oracle a couple of weeks ago and quickly resigned myself to purchasing it. I bought it expecting it to be a cheesy gallery of images of svelte models with photoshopped facial tattoos and little substance. I mean, come on, look at the sort of material it’s based on!

I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I actually….like this deck.

First, the technical stuff. There are 50 cards in this deck, and they are about 4 1/4 inches long and just under 3 1/2 inches wide, in comparison to Wisdom of the Hidden Realms, these cards are not as wide. The borders are black with a gold knotwork design and the back of the card is also black with a triple moon symbol with a bit of knotwork inside and the same kind of border you see on the fronts. The fronts of the cards include the card number within a triple moon and title in teal at the bottom. There are no additional keywords (although some of the images have words). The guidebook’s cover is also black with gold borders (made to resemble a House of Night textbook).

Oh, and the deck is very sparkly.

Yes, I’m serious, the guidebook as well as the cards have glitter on them. The cards also have silver gilded edges. I love gilt-edged cards, they look so luxurious, but seriously, GLITTER! (Although, in a way it makes sense, because the vampyre goddess Nyx is a goddess of, well, night.

On the subject of the art (I’ll get to the guidebook in a minute), it’s actually very pretty. Yes, there are lots of tattooed women and men, some of them cheesier than others, but there are plenty of cards where there are no human figures at all. If you love cats, you’re going to love this deck. On a more serious note, I actually want to eat the pomegranate depicted on the “Fulfillment” card, and I can feel the heat of the candle flame on the “Honesty” card. This seems to be the kind of deck that really engages all of my senses. In the back of my mind, I kept saying “Man, this is just cheesy….” but I really can’t deny it when the pictures evoke such feelings. If I had to sum up the art in one word, I think I’d say “minimalist”, there’s not a whole lot going on in most of the cards, but I think the images do a good job of expressing the meaning of that card in a very straightforward way (ie. depicting a diploma that says “Congratulations!” for the “Success” card or a cat at play for the “Playful” card). The one issue I have, though, is that some of the cards do include the name of the character from the books that it represents (Aphrodite for Vision, for instance). On the one hand, it’s helpful to fans of the books who know about Aphrodite’s role in the story (and it isn’t so confusing for newcomers who wonder why a pale blonde waif is on the Vision card). On the other hand, it is kind of distracting. you can see some scans here, though the scans are a lot darker than the actual cards. The art actually reminds me of Nigel Suckling’s Fallen Angel Oracle (which I recommend) only with real people instead of stonework.

Now to the guidebook, it’s obvious that this is intended for fans of the House of Night series who may not be familiar with oracle cards. The first part of the book contains instructions on how to use the cards, what sorts of questions to ask, that sort of thing, along with basic one, two, and three card spreads. The rest of the book is devoted to explaining the meaning of each individual card. The story behind the cards is that they are Nyx’s messages to vampyres and humans alike, given to vampyre Queen Sgiach in a vision. It might not make a lot of sense to people who haven’t read the books, but it’s a nice way to tie it in to the House of Night series.

Unfortunately, the guidebook is as fluffy as a litter of kittens in a room full of cotton candy.

Every card, even the more negative cards in the deck (like ‘Forbidden’) have this candy-coated reassurance that everything will be okay because Nyx loves all her children. In the art, there are some clear nods to Greek mythology (“Denial” has a hand trying to grasp a bunch of grapes and failing, a la Tantalus) but the book never acknowledges these things (or maybe I’m just too smart for this deck). I also find it hilarious that the book admonishes the reader “to avoid frivolous or silly questions, otherwise the goddess is likely to send you on a wild, confusing ride.” (p. 13) This is right before a sample reading in which the querent thinks a guy is hot and wants to know if there’s anything going on between them (said guy is sending her mixed messages). Now, plenty of people want to know what the cards say about their love life, but the way the reading is phrased just….makes it sound exactly like the kind of silly problem the book warns us about.

Anyways, I guess the long and short of it is that the cards are lovely, but the book sucks.

Now, could someone please pitch an oracle/tarot deck based on Kushiel’s Legacy to Jacqueline Carey or whomever they need to pitch it to to make it happen? If I like this cheesy deck I can’t imagine what I’d think of one based on KL! Hel, I’ll even take that Wraeththu Tarot that everyone forgot about even though the book is driving me crazy (note to self: start reading that book again).

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