Review | Tarot of Dragons, by Shawn MacKenzie (illus. by Firat Solhan)

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Oh my gosh, this deck! I think dragons are awesome, and I thought the images of the deck online look good. But even I wasn’t prepared at how absolutely blown away I was when I opened it.

First of all, look at how gorgeous that box is! I don’t usually pay attention to boxes — a lot of my recent tarot purchases are by indie creators, and I usually buy the most affordable version of the deck (the only way I can continue to do this!). That often means getting a standard tuck box with a basic key word guide. I was fortunate enough to be sent this deck for review, and oh my gosh, even if I did purchase it myself, the extra cost is definitely worth it. The box is itself a work of art; illustrations from the cards wrap around it. It’s also sturdy, with a magnetic closure.

And the guidebook is absolutely magical. It’s full colour, with gorgeously enlarged illustrations from the cards that extend across the spread.

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I love the way Shawn MacKenzie writes. I tend to flip through new decks and jump right into a test reading to see how the cards feel, and to get a sense of the energy they give off. But with this guidebook, I felt compelled to go through each card one by one, and actually read through each card’s meanings within this deck. (I ended up tapping out after the major arcana, but honestly, there were moments I thought I’d end up reading this book from cover to cover.) The descriptions invite you to savour the cards, and reflect on how these meanings can apply to you.

The guidebook makes this a good deck for learning tarot, as each card write-up describes the symbology in the images. Some of the write-ups do tend to focus on the description, leaving the reader to interpret the meaning in their own readings; some beginners may prefer to start with a more direct explanation of each card’s message. For me at least, having been reading tarot cards for about half a year so far, I found that the explanations of the illustrations helped deepen my understanding of some of the cards.

The book doesn’t include reversals, which is usually a snag for me since I use reversals in my own readings, but I think the descriptive approach to the card write-ups helps provide a depth of nuance to figure out multiple meanings of each card. The author also recommends Mary K Greer’s The Complete Book of Tarot Reversals for anyone who wishes to do a deeper dive into that aspect of tarot readings.

MacKenzie’s love and respect for dragons comes through strong in the chapters about the deck more broadly. Her writing invites us to connect beyond this deck and towards the broader mythologies surrounding dragons.

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And the artwork. How gorgeous is Firat Solhan’s artwork here? I love how the cards feature not just dragons, but also the worlds they inhabit, with other creatures that have their own layers of symbolism and meaning. Here are some of my favourites:

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I love the joyful exuberance of The Sun, the symbolism of the domestic cat and the tiger in The Moon, the fluidity of the 3 of Cups, the playfulness of the little jaguar in The Hanged Dragon, the curiosity of The Fool, and just the sheer emotion in the Queen of Swords.

I also absolutely love the contrast between, and the majesty of, the feminine and masculine energies of The Empress and The Emperor:

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And the ‘tougher’ cards, like The Devil, The Tower, and the 10 of Swords, are downright impressive and larger than life:

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All absolutely gorgeous and majestic, and I can’t wait to really dive deep into these cards!

CARD PULL FOR THE DAY

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To give you an idea of the writing style, here’s an excerpt from the page:

VII – The Chariot

Huang-di, the Yellow Lord, travels across his kingdom, a pair of dragons, black and white–yin and yang–pulling his chariot.

The Yellow Lord is a conqueror of the physical, rather than the spiritual. His triumphs are more feats of brain than brawn, more skill than brute force. Dragons respect that. Out of this respect, they consent–for now–to the Lord’s rein, to guide him with balance and strength on his journey. In the company of dragons, Huang-di is humbled. He knows they serve at their pleasure, and will go their separate ways should his will weaken, his purpose waver. Should he fail to measure up to their standards…

Look to control your surroundings with will and reason. Let mastery of self guide you through the world. Move steadily forward; face your problems, use your head.

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Thank you to Thomas Allen Ltd for a copy of this tarot deck in exchange for an honest review.

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