This deck was a gift from someone who knows how greatly I admire the work of the prolific, talented, and inspired people behind the Magic Realist Press. The cards came in the mail a month or so ago and have turned me into a full Magic Realist Press groupie. If Karen Mahony and Alex Ukolov have a fan club, I want to be on the board of directors.
There are so many things that are fantastic about The Fantastic Menagerie Tarot. First of course, are the illustrations. Based on the political satires of J.J. Grandville, the images portray animals in human guises and scenarios. "Elephants, tigers and bears, oh my," but unlike you've seen them before unless you happen to be familiar with Grandville's work. I am not and I look at these beasts and forget they're not human and I smile, because their expressions are so astutely evocative of human characteristics. I have friends who, disguised as storks, alligators, and hippos, have cameos in this deck and I can't help laughing each time I see them there. I haven't had the deck for very long and haven't done many many readings with it. But each reading I've done so far was accurate and often reminded me to look at the lighter side of the issue at hand. I see this deck as the most whimsical, tongue-in cheek, and deliciously wicked of the three decks I now own by the same creators.
The second fantastic thing is how well the illustrations have been chosen to fit the theme of each card and of the Rider-Waite structure in general. I understand that Grandville's images were originally inspired by something vastly removed from the tarot, yet these cards make it seem as if the illustrations were never intended for anything other than to be showcased here in this deck.
The third fantastic thing is how consistently the creators of this deck manage to retain their high standard of quality. Each new tarot deck The Magic Realist Press publishes is a unique work of art. From the stock the cards are printed on to the books that accompany the decks, it's clear that the decks' creators love what they do and give it their all. As to books, this deck also comes with an accompanying book. Although not written by Karen this time the book is, as with the others, very informative and detailed, giving a history of Grandville and of the time he lived in and was influenced by. It also offers the traditional meanings of the cards and information on how to use them as well as some well-imagined scenarios for each of the cards. As such it makes a very worthy complement to these humorous and enjoyable cards although I myself might have preferred the actual history linked to the images rather than the imaginary stories. Evenso, the deck is very different than any other I own and is as entertaining as it is helpful.