Pop culture and the Tarot don’t cross paths very often, and when they do it’s often in the most generic of ways. So imagine my surprise when I found a copy of The Game of Thrones Tarot at my local (non-occult/metaphysical) bookstore. Thankfully I was mostly alone when I spotted the GoT Tarot because I think I let out a very loud and embarrassing “Squee!” upon spotting them.
I don’t know if I’m a HUGE Game of Thrones fan, but I’ve spent a whole lot of Sundays over the last seven years watching the show, often in near silence. And I’ll admit that I’m a big enough fan that at the conclusion of an episode I’ve sometimes gone back and immediately re-watched things. (Remember when Cersei Lannister blows up the Sept using wildfire? Insert several other show stealing scenes here too.) My wife and I have read all the books as well, and like everyone else who reads the books, we doubt that they will ever be finished.
Which brings me to this review of the GoT Tarot. There’s a lot to like with these cards, but it’s tempered with a great deal of disappointment too. Perhaps these cards are designed for people who are not as big of a fanboy as I am? There are times when artist Craig Coss and writer Liz Dean get everything absolutely right. Arya Stark as Death? I’m all in. Olenna Tyrell as the Queen of Coins? Absolutely. Queen Cersei as the Queen of Swords? The art is perfect, but she should have had her own Major Arcana card. Nice to see long-gone and still missed Ned Stark as Justice too. To be fair, I really like most of the art, and it seems to channel the feel of the Smith-Waite Tarot but with characters from Game of Thrones.
If I have one quibble with these cards, it’s that there just aren’t enough characters from the series featured on them. I like Jon Snow too, but how many cards does he need? Especially when characters like Davos Seaworth, Hodor, Stannis Baratheon, Robert Baratheon, Podrick Payne, Shae, Barristan Selmy, and Jorah Mormount all don’t have their own card. Sure, Jon Snow is the Emperor, but he and Ygritte are the Lovers? Should have been Cersei and Jamie . . . . And yeah, Sansa has come a long way but where are the Reeds or the Greyjoys?
Then there are minor characters who appear on several cards, and they appear on more cards than Jamie Lannister. Samwell Tarly is pretty great, but I’m not sure he deserves three cards, and I feel the same about Brienne of Tarth (though her appearing on a Major Arcana card is well deserved). Where’s the Hound, Sandor Clegane? And his brother Gregor the Mountain? You can’t tell me that Sam is three times more important than the Hound.
Not surprisingly Daenerys Targaryen is on a whole bunch of cards, and she should be on a few, but again, it feels like overkill. Westeros is such a big and amazing place, so many great characters just aren’t featured and I can’t stop scratching my head about it. Perhaps there was a limit to how much Chronicle Books wanted to pay in licensing fees? Since this is all based on the TV Show and not the books, I assume to use the images of the actors required some sort of licensing fee. (But no High Sparrow card? It’s perfect for The Hierophant, as much as I like that picture of Varys.)
OK Jason, the cards only feature a small smattering of characters, what are they like to read with? Perhaps because the cards feature such a small amount of characters most anyone even a little bit familiar with the show can probably give an OK reading with the cards. Though everyone’s preferences and prejudices against certain characters will probably come into play with how things are interpreted. Another plus, the card stock is pretty thick and I can imagine these cards surviving for a good long while.
For the individual who doesn’t know much about Tarot, the deck includes a lovely book that describes each card, and gives instructions on how to do a reading. The book is especially helpful if you don’t remember every scene in the show or want to know exactly what moment a particular card is trying to represent.
Do I recommend these cards even though they don’t feature Catelyn Stark or her brother the Black Fish? (And where the hell is Walder Frey?) Mostly, though more diehard fans like myself are going to be a bit disappointed.
Images from the Game of Thrones Tarot, copyright 2017 Home Box Office Inc. Design by Michale Morris, text by Liz Dean, and illustrations by Craig Coss. I’m obviously claiming fair use with the images since this is a review. Also, my images are kind of crappy, you can’t do much with them.