Amber Tarot by Florence Magnin Review by S. Zoe Hecht
The Amber story itself is a twisting, turning science fiction adventure that captured my imagination and had me reading during a three month journey across the United States, each book found in an out-of-the-way bookshop and devoured on highways, in hostels and inns. I was enthralled, enraptured with the notion of using a tarot image that transported people from one place to the other, one of several magical devices Mr. Zelazny uses in the Amber Chronicles. So, naturally, when I spied a deck of cards on line years later, I couldn't wait to get them into my own hands and transport myself between the conscious and unconscious realms.
Just a few months ago, a friend purchased them for me in France, purportedly buying the last copy. What a deep disappointment I experienced when they finally rested in the palm of my hands. The pips are unnumbered and unimaginative. One of the Aces exhibits a glimpse of the Court of Amber or the maze that is the World of Chaos, the two central locations of the story. The Ace of Coins does depict Unicorns, the family emblem, while the other aces are boldly set at the foreground of uninspired pastoral backdrops. It was Judgement that first drew me to the cards, but the other Majors don't seem to relate to the story in any apparent way, and without any LWB, or other references, I fail to see any of the outstanding descriptive images I had read in the Chronicles. On close inspection, L'Ermite may be an attempt to capture the long absence of Oberon (Roi D'Epees) or perhaps his father Dworkin (Valet d'Epees), both of whom appear and disappear throughout the series, but the actual drawing does not immediately lend itself to that interpretation.
Overall, the Majors seem traditional and somewhat stilted, especially in light of the vast possibility that existed in portraying what unfolds in Mr. Zelasny's novels. Adventure is at the heart of Amber, and much simple and evocative philosophy. All we get with this deck are the Courts, and while they have some seeming relationships, they are inaccurate in several instances with regard to the family tree. Admittedly, the lineage of the Amber series is a maze, but the cards don't necessarily conform to the books. Dworkin is indeed Oberon's father, but it struck me immediately as a role-reversal having the son follow the father. Then again, doesn't Uranus follow Saturn in planetary assignment? Now, we can either follow the story or truly get lost in the assignments, because Oberon had many wives, and with each, children. The two remaining D'Epees are perhaps decided upon by their steadfastness throughout the 10-volume book, but they were not of the same mother. In fact, it is strange that with the strong colors used throughout the deck that Llewella (Reine D'Epees) is depicted with a slight purple hue, while in point of fact she is the only child that was conceived in Rebma, an underwater city and mirror image of Amber. Throughout the story she is slightly green.
Moving to the Batons, we get closer to the Amber story with Corwin, one of the principle characters throughout the 10-part book seen with his sister, Deirdre and brother, Eric. Caine's mother is not clearly established, and chronicles vary as to his maternity. The Deniers, like the Batons, nearly embrace one sibling group and the one most avaricious: Fiona, Bleys, and Brand. However, putting a little-referenced Roi de Deniers (Swayvill) into the Coins troubled my sense of symmetry, and left the grouping unbalanced.
The remaining Cups are a forced completion, once more taking different siblings and placing them together. Random (Roi de Coupes) is a good choice, as he ultimately plays a large and important role in the stories, and becomes the heir to the throne, but the three remaining Coupes are not necessarily allies.
To sum it up, the deck is attractive, the size comfortable in one's hand, or at least in mine, but I fail to see the appeal to anyone who read the story, and even less so for those that didn't enjoy Roger Zelazny with the verve I experienced in reading those 10 books each several times. So many missed opportunities exist in the deck. I don't want my money back, but I am certainly pleased that I paid the selling price in Paris, and not the going price in the States.
S. ZoŽ Hecht is a collector of tarot and the founder of 9Muses Foundation, a not for profit organization (pending) dedicated to enriching the lives of adolescents through cosmology, the arts, and community. The foundation's website is in development.
Images © Florence Magnin
Review © 2001 S. Zoe Hecht
Page © 2001 Diane Wilkes