Arcana: A Tarot Anthology, Madison Scott-Clary, ed. – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Arcana: A Tarot Anthology, Madison Scott-Clary, ed. Illustrated by Joseph Chou.
Lansing, MI, Thurston Howl Publications, November 2017, trade paperback, $17.99 (xi + 423 pages).

The tarot cards, according to the Preface by editor Scott-Clary, were introduced to Europe in the 15th century. They have been used for fortune-telling since the 16thth century, if not earlier. There are four suits of 14 cards each, plus 22 “major arcana” cards. The arcana have individual names: The Fool, The Magician, The High Priestess, The Hierophant, and so on. Arcana: A Tarot Anthology presents 22 stories, one for each arcana card, featuring anthro animals. Each is illustrated by a full-page portrait in the style of an anthro arcana card by Joseph Chou.

The first story, “The First Step” (The Fool) by editor Madison “Makyo” Scott-Clary, is less a story than a tutorial on how tarot fortune-telling works. Avery, a shy young mountain lion, is sent by his mother to a nameless older badger fortune-teller by his mother. Avery, the narrator, is just about to leave home for college, and his mother insists that he find out from the tarot cards what the future will bring. The motherly badger is as much a lay psychologist as a fortune-teller. “The First Step” is unusual in being narrated in the present tense:

“She leans in close to me, stage-whispering, ‘I’ll let you in on a secret. None of the cards in the swords suit – in any suits – show blood. Death, yes. Change, definitely. But no blood.   It’s hardly hacking and slashing.’

‘But they’re still –‘

She holds up a paw. ‘They’re still swords, but they’re tools. Swords show work. Strife, sometimes, sure; striving toward a goal. But what they is show work. These swords aren’t working right now, they’re just standing there. So where is the striving?’

‘Behind them?’ I ask. “They figures are all facing away from something.’

‘Or toward something.’

‘So,’ I say hesitantly. ‘I’m going to go on a journey?’” (p. 11)

“Cat’s Paw” (The Magician) by Mut is narrated by a nameless desperate were-dog who accosts a lion-man wizard and his date in a bar to get his curse removed. But nobody is what they seem. Very sardonically amusing:

“So here’s the secret to spotting a wizard: look for the one with a body that’s just too perfect. There’s a stud who’s six three, muscles fighting to escape his shirt, not a hair out of place? Wizard. Or a porn star, maybe, but probably a wizard.


I’d been trawling through bars for a wizard all evening, ad it was getting close to the deadline. I’d found a couple of almosts and one obvious poseur, but nobody with real magic. This guy, though, he was unmistakeable. He hadn’t even bothered to keep it human – too green to know better, or too powerful to care. He was a lion, with a mane and golden fur and whiskers and everything. There was even a tail flicking away under the barstool.” (pgs. 21-22)

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