About the Book
Pamela Colman Smith begins her career as an artist at the end of the Victorian Age at the Lyceum Theatre where she grows from innocent empath to seer and channeller, creating her now world-famous deck of tarot cards.
Introduced to The Golden Dawn cult by Bram Stoker, the second in command at the Lyceum Theatre, she is commissioned to create a tarot deck for the members to use in their quest for magic. Golden Dawn’s most evil member, Aleister Crowley, becomes obsessed with unlocking the mysteries of the Tarot. His obsession peaks when he sees the power of her deck and realizes he can create a rival deck, leading him to manifest magical power to harm Pamela’s incarnates of her cards.
Format: ebook (348 pages) Publisher: i2i Publishing
Publication date: 4th October 2017 Genre: Historical fiction, occult
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I confess I’d never heard of Pamela Colman Smith before being approached by the author to read and review Magician and Fool. Unlike the author, I have very little knowledge of tarot or interest in the occult. Therefore some of the scenes in the book where strange or supernatural happenings occur rather tested my sense of disbelief and the references to incarnates and the like left me a little perplexed.
From an early age, Pamela shows remarkable artistic ability. She also has visions and an unusual response to music and colours akin to synesthesia. Her belief in the supernatural is boosted by her youth spent in Jamaica and the obeah stories told to her by her nurse.
If the occult elements of the book left me slightly cold, what I did enjoy was the evocative depiction of the theatre of the period and the detours into the lives of figures such as Bram Stoker, Sir Henry Irving and Ellen Terry. For example, the scenes at the Lyceum Theatre during the performance of the play, The Corsican Brothers, really sparkled with life. It was also fun spotting the origins of some theatrical phrases and superstitions.
A vast array of well-known figures from the period have walk-on parts in the book, especially when Pamela and Ellen Terry’s daughter, Edy, start hosting artistic soirees. Their guest lists are a who’s who of celebrities of the period – poets, playwrights, authors, musicians and painters – giving rise to memorable exchanges along the lines of “Mr Yeats, have you met Mr Debussy and Mr Whistler?”
The sinister and rather repellent figure of Aleister Crowley brings a darker element to the story. The end of the book leaves the enticing prospect for those intrigued by Pamela’s life of the story continuing in a future book.
My thanks to Susan Wands for my copy of Magician and Fool and her patience in waiting for it to reach the top of my review pile.
In three words: Well-researched, atmospheric, intriguing
Try something similar: Shadowplay by Joseph O’Connor
About the Author
Susan Wands lives in New York City, where she has worked as a writer, playwright, producer and actor. A practitioner of tarot cards, she has used them as a resource for inspiration and guidance for thirty years. (Photo credit: author website)
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