Magician and Fool by Susan Wands

Pamela Colman Smith, newly arrived from New York to her birthplace of London, is received as an oddball in Victorian society. Her second sight helps her in her new job: illustrating tarot cards for the Golden Dawn, a newly formed occult group. But when Pamela refuses to share her creations with Aleister Crowley, a controversial magician, he issues a threat: give up the cards’ power, or he’ll harm her muses.

In the midst of this battle, two of Pamela’s idols, the actors Henry Irving and William Terriss, take her under their wing. Henry, who tutors her as the leader of the Lyceum Theatre, becomes the muse for her Magician card. William Terriss, teaching her by examples of instinct and courage, becomes the muse for her Fool card. As Pamela begins to create the tarot deck, she is almost overwhelmed by the race to possess the magical power of her cards. In order to defeat Aleister, Henry and William will have to transform into living incarnations of the Magician and the Fool—and Pamela will have to learn how to conjure her own magic. (Taken from Amazon)

Thank you to Netgalley for providing me with this book in exchange for my honest opinion. Magician and Fool is available now.

It doesn’t happen very often, but every now and then I’ll read a book that leaves me a little bit confused. Magician and Fool was just such a book for me. I am left scratching my head a little at the description of the book vs the book that was written. The blurb seems to revolve the plot around a small aspect of the book, making it sound like a very different tale. I expected more of a fantastical tale with a small sprinkling of historical events or people. Instead, it is a fictional twist on historical characters and events with supernatural elements popping in.

Magician and Fool had a different cadence to its writing, and at times felt a little off-kilter. There was a lot of information to give, and, unfortunately, it led to some info dumping. It had a slow setup and at times I felt my attention wandering. The pacing was a victim of the author’s massive vision. I was surprised by how big her ideas were. There was a lot happening and things were implied that could have easily become separate books in their own right.

I also have zero experience with tarot decks, which means that things that would have emotional resonance for readers who understand that side of things just didn’t have the same effect on me. At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Why on earth did you decide to read this book when you are obviously not the intended reader?”, which is a very valid question. I am not the right reader for this book.

Because of this, take my quibbles with a very large grain of salt.

The characters themselves were interesting and the book is definitely not like anything I’ve read before. Alas, this wasn’t a book I enjoyed reading.


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