I cannot praise this deck highly enough, not just for its outstanding artwork but for the numerous practicalities of its presentation. Indeed, all involved deserve a lot of praise. The deck can only be bought as part of a fairly lavish package, titled the Beginners Guide to the Tarot. Not only would the book still be an asset to anyone's Tarot library, no matter how advanced, the whole glorious package retails for around the price of a standard U.S. Games tarot deck, making it in my book just about the best bargain I've ever added to my collection.
In terms of presentation, the book is teaming with monochrome illustrations taken from the deck itself. A particularly nice touch however, is that dark blue ink, rather than black has been used both for text and illustrations, making the whole presentation much softer on the eye. Moving on to the proper content of this set, it really is difficult to know where to start - mainly because there's just so much that's good and down to earth practical. It's probably best to start with the book. Juliet Sharman Burke is a full time teacher of both Tarot and Astrology. She is a very good teacher and this book, I feel is her best offering to date. She is a total no - nonsense, level-headed tarot practitioner and the perfect guide for the novice while being able to offer new insight to the more advanced in the same breath. I had always loved the Tarot and been fascinated by it's imagery. When I bought this set and followed the course through I became a good reader as opposed to just a dabbler. For the first time I had a very solid and practical foundation to build on.
Each card is described in individual detail but there are also general overviews of the Majors as a whole and of each suit. She starts with the Minor Arcana, which in itself is a brilliant move. You don't even get to the Majors until you've learned all of these card meanings, done sample readings with each suit on its own, then a reading using all four together. You then learn the Majors, do a Majors only reading and finally a reading with the whole deck. Individual card descriptions are detailed but never labourious. Each card gets more or less a full page and is accompanied by a monochrome reproduction of the card itself which is diagrammatically annotated with key points and handy tips.
Sharman - Burke has devised this deck more or less along the lines of the Rider - Waite but she also draws on the other traditional decks such as the Visconti Sforza and the Marseilles. What results is almost an objectified Rider deck - she debunks all of Waite's subjective occult imagery and replaces it with easier to understand symbols. Hence, Waite's rather obscure Alchemical Wheel of fortune is replaced by the more traditional Fortuna and her Wheel. Also, numbers are absent from the Major cards. This does away with any arguments over card ordering and leaves you to form your own conclusions. When did it ever matter whether Strength was card 8 or 11 to a novice anyway?
A similar pattern follows through the Minor Arcana, which if anything are even richer in detail than Colman Smith's whilst remaining true to her basic imagery. For me, Juliet Sharman-Burke is the only person who has managed to achieve this. What also helps is that each suit has its own consistent color scheme, making the cards instantly recognizable. Colors are related to elements and the elemental attributions are standard - Pentacles - Earth. Swords - Air. Wands - Fire. Cups - Water.
As to purely artistic concerns, the deck, though devised by Juliet Sharman-Burke in every detail was painted by Giovanni Casselli. Its a masterpiece of line and wash style which is elegant, refined and manages to totally avoid the comic strip style trap that many decks can fall into. It really is a gorgeous deck that can hold its own with the best of the rest.
Although aimed at beginners, this package is far more than just an introductory course. It is a timeless deck and book that will continually provide pleasure and insight no matter how far advanced you are. As such it should be a required acquisition to any serious collection as well as the best recommended starting point for anyone interested in learning the art of Tarot.
—Chris Butler, Tarot author and illustrator