This lovely new tarot deck arrived just as I was finishing the formatting for the fall issue of the Quarterly Journal.

Created by a Korean-born writer-artist team, this tarot deck features a beautiful synthesis of east-west aesthetics. The author, Rome Choi, says that he saw the tarot characters in a dream, hence the name of the tarot deck. Kwon Shina is a commercial artist with a background in comic books and advertising. This author-artist team bring a delightfully quirky edge to the deck. 

Although the deck follows the RWS symbol pattern, the combination of artistic media, color palette, and the diversity of the figures results in a deck that’s light-hearted and unique.

The booklet include traditional card meanings, but there are some surprises for readers. For instance, for the High Priestess, the book says: “The High Priestess usually indicates a beautiful, young woman (20-40 years old) who takes good care of herself. Her prim and proper air makes her seem aloof and hard to approach, but she has a warm heart. When single, she is popular among men, but after marriage she becomes quite reserved and passive.”

The booklet also provides an unique analysis of the Minor Arcana in terms of the body, mind and soul, followed by a summary of the mystical meanings of the numbers one through ten and the general roles of the four court cards.

The Page of Cups is a good example of the deck’s great sense of humor. The young girl featured in the card has a teapot tied to her head. She looks a uncertain and perhaps a bit worried, as though she can’t quite figure out what to say or how to react. Three fish swim in front of her, a clever symbol of how this Page processes everything through her emotions and tends to be oversensitive to her environment. And the teapot shows how this Page can be somewhat leaky, weeping at the slightest emotional tremor.

The Five of Wands is another card that’s powerful but funny. In the scene on the card, a group of young boys are sitting around a table. It looks like they’re at a birthday party, and are wearing festive party hats. But something has gone horribly wrong! The boys are misbehaving. Somebody taunted or insulted somebody else, and a fight has ensued. One kid is ducking in the back, trying to avoid getting hit. The kid with the red vest looks like he intends to get his own way, no matter what!

The imagery on the cards is attractive and begs for further exploration. Since I haven’t had time to delve too deeply into the book or cards, more images are arranged below.

The sensibility of this deck will appeal to younger readers who are fond of manga, animé and graphic novels, as well as to older readers who want a fresh take on the RWS imagers. The multi-cultural characters, the mix of east-west styling, the creative use of patterns (like the checkerboard in the Five of Wands), and the unfamiliar juxtaposition of color families tantalizes the eye. Sweet!

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Creators: Rome Choi
illustrated by Kwon Shina
U. S. Games Systems, Inc. 2012