Author: Georg Patterson and Sarah Ovenall
Artist: Sarah Ovenall
Book and Cards Set
Publication date: March 2002
View Sample Cards
Price & More Info: Click Here
Usually Llewellyn asks reviewers to request the books and decks they wish to review, so I was surprised to receive a package from Llewellyn that I had not requested. Inside I discovered a very beautiful surprise, the Victoria Regina Tarot deck. My initial reaction to seeing the deck was positive: my eyes grew big and I said "Oh wow!" I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan since I was in grade school, so the Victorian era has always interested and fascinated me. As I am also a fan of Victorian era line art, this review may be a bit more biased than usual (you have been warned).
The art for the Victoria Regina Tarot deck is collages of steel and wood engravings from the late Victorian era. This was the height of this style of commercial illustration -- soon half toning would replace it. Sarah Ovenall's collage work is excellent. It is generally seamless, unlike some of the other collage decks I have seen. The Victorian era was an age of invention and technological progress. The cards capture this, as well as the lavish elegance of Victorian high society. Even the velvet deck bag with its tasseled drawstring seems to fit the Victorian mood.
All the art is black and white. While this may upset some who are used to the brilliant colors of many tarot decks, it actually works quite well. The court cards are generally members of the British Royal family. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are there, of course, but also some of their children and grandchildren. The suits of wands, swords, cups, and coins of the standard Tarot are represented in this deck by pens, guns, mason jars, and pocket watches respectively. These choices work much better than they might appear at first glance as they capture the essence of the era. The cards are larger than the current standard for Tarot cards. While this is hard on smaller hands, the art needs the larger cards. Reducing the card size would lose much of the fine detail lines in the card art.
The companion book, Victoria Regina Tarot Companion, by Georg Patterson and Sarah Ovenall, is well done. The first chapter sets the stage, briefly describing the deck and the British Empire during the Victorian era. The bulk of the volume is card descriptions. Each card is illustrated, described in a sentence or two, and provided with a long interpretation that usually places the card in a historical context and explains how the card affects the reading. A final paragraph usually notes the sources of the some of the illustrations used in making the collage for that card. The book proper concludes with a short chapter on readings which includes two Tarot layouts designed for this deck: Victoria's Sceptre and Victoria's Chalice. An appendix discusses collage art and gives ideas for creating your own collage Tarot deck.
I said that my initial reaction to seeing this deck was "Oh wow!" That is still my reaction to it. It's the only collage Tarot deck I have seen that I truly love. Sarah Ovenall has done a masterful job of both collage art and Tarot deck creation. It is clear that she has a real passion for both her medium and the Tarot. Despite the "different" artwork, the deck looks, feels, and reads like a Tarot deck -- quite an accomplishment. The only problems I see with this set are that the size of the cards will make this deck hard to shuffle and use for all but the large-handed and that the book really could have used a few pages more of basic instruction in the "reading" section for those completely new to Tarot. If you are in the market for a new Tarot deck, I strongly recommend adding the Victoria Regina Tarot to the list of decks you are considering. If you are a fan of the Victorian era or of Victorian art, you really have to see this deck. If you do see it, however, I suspect your bank balance will regret it.
(Note that the sample cards had to be reduced much more than usual to reach our standard sample image size and have lost much of their fine detail. Please do not judge this deck's art by these approximately one-quarter size images.)
Reviewed by Randall