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Thursday, September 6, 2012

REVIEW: Otherworld Tarot


Otherworld Tarot
by Alison Williams
Artwork by Sarah Nowell
Schiffer Publishing
78 illustrated art cards
96-page companion guide
ISBN-10: 0764333941
ISBN-13: 978-0764333941
Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 3.9 x 1.8 inches

TOP LINE (formerly Bottom Line)

This is a high-quality art deck that does an excellent job of showcasing Sarah Nowell's individual style. I like many of the paintings, and I'm always drawn to bright, bold colors like those used on these cards.

As a reading deck, drawbacks might include the key words at the bottom of each card, the wide borders, and the departure of many of the images from the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition. For the latter reason, this probably isn't a good deck for someone who is just learning how to read Tarot. On the other hand, a beginner who doesn't care about studying the RWS symbols and imagery might do just fine using the key words and interpreting the cards with intuition alone, like an oracle deck.

If you dislike borders, you might be able to trim these down, but I'm not sure how it would look. I can imagine some readers finding the color choices for the borders to be perplexing, although the color for Cups works if you call it "sea green" or "seafoam." And I do understand olive green for Wands, given that "growth" and "new life" are associated with that suit (note the green leaves sprouting from the Wands in many decks). 

I plan to do a reading with this deck in the very near future, and I will let you know how it works for me.


"Born from a love of fairy art with a colourful twist, these cards are beautifully illustrated with fairies, elves, magicians, and other fairy folk. This exciting color deck brings every Tarot reading to life. The companion guide details the meanings of each card and provides a quick-start for reading cards right away. Find out why the Death card isn't actually so bad, and why the Sun is the most positive card in the deck. Use this Tarot deck for guidance through hectic times and learn how to get what you want out of life along the way!"


Author Alison Williams, a native of England, has a career in both teaching and finance. Writing, sewing, embroidery, knitting, and reading are among her other interests. She has been an avid reader of Tarot cards for many years. Artist Sarah Nowell (aka MonkeyPea on DeviantART)  has been drawing fairies, unicorns, and dragons for as long as she can remember. She views Arthur Rackham as one of her greatest influences.

The 96-page companion guide for Otherworld Tarot includes the following sections:
  • Introduction to the Tarot
  • Reading the Tarot (Getting Started, Setting the Scene, Telling the Story, Dealing with Difficulties, Most Popular Card Spreads, 3 Card Spread, Celtic Cross Spread
  • The Major Arcana (with a separate introduction)
  • The Minor Arcana (with a separate introduction)
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • About the Author, About the Artist

Major Arcana cards bear traditional titles. Justice is Trump 8 and Strength is Trump 11. Suit names are Swords, Wands, Pentacles, and Cups. Court Cards are titled King, Queen, Knight, and Page. Each card has the card title at the top of the card and a key phrase at the bottom. For example, the Nine of Pentacles is subtitled "On the Right Track" and the Two of Cups is subtitled "Balance."

The companion guidebook contains a description of the energy of each card along with three key words or phrases for each Major Arcana card, and one key word or phrase for each Minor. Just one key word or phrase is printed at the bottom of each card, even if more are given in the guidebook. For example, for The Hanged Man, the guidebook lists the key words "Limbo, Sacrifice, Transformation", but only the word "Limbo" appears on the card itself. 


The cards measure 3-1/2 by 5 inches, a nice size for displaying the artwork but awkward for shuffling if you prefer to use a poker shuffle. Cards are printed on sturdy laminated stock, attractive but slippery to handle. Like other Schiffer decks, this one comes in a high-quality, sturdy box with a lid that holds the cards and the guidebook. The guidebook includes black-and-white illustrations of each card.


Sarah Nowell has chosen strong, vibrant colors for the card faces, with vivid images centered in wide (1/2 inch) borders that vary in color by Arcana and suit: gray for the Majors, steel blue for Swords, olive green for Wands, rust for Pentacles, and what I would call sea green or seafoam for Cups.

The card backs feature a wide purple border with an inset that consists of two flying unicorns and an S-shaped strand of pink flowers inside a lavender-framed, black rectangle.

In most cases the scenes on the cards are relatively simple, without a lot of detail. Many of the images on the Majors and Court Cards follow the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition, but the Pips typically depart from tradition, relying mostly on suit symbols and various objects and creatures to convey the message.

In accordance with the FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, I hereby disclose that this product was provided by the publisher for free. Other than the occasional review copy, I receive no monetary or in-kind compensation for my reviews.  The substance of my reviews is not influenced by whether I do or do not receive a review copy.


  1. Looking at the images you have given us, this deck reminds me more or an oracle than a tarot.

    1. Hi Helen,

      Yes, I think that's probably true. Tomorrow I am posting a reading I did for myself with this deck. I felt it was quite helpful.


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~ Zanna