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Book Corner: The Fortune Teller by Gwendolyn Womack

Book: The Fortune Teller

Author: Gwendolyn Womack

Date of Publication: 06/06/2017

ISBN: 9781250099778

Published by: Picador

Length: 368 Pages

PLEASE NOTE: A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher. For more information about this book, the author, and an excerpt, go to:

Synopsis: Semele Cavnow is an antiquities appraiser, specializing in ancient texts. On assignment dealing with a famous collector’s estate in Switzerland, Semele stumbles upon a rare manuscript that she surmises must be from the time of Cleopatra—a manuscript that was deliberately left off the official records… a manuscript that came with a mysterious note from the deceased collector:

Tell no one what you find written in these pages. Translate the words and you will understand. You can trust no one now.

Despite this foreboding message, Semele translates the manuscript. As Semele translates the manuscript, she becomes absorbed in the story of the powerful seer that wrote it and the very first tarot deck lost to the cruel twists of history… and Semele comes to realize that though the manuscript helps to awaken her own psychic gifts, it also places her in terrible danger.

I’ll try to stray away from cliches in this review, but honestly? I couldn’t put this book down. I almost felt guilty that I was sent this book for review, because reading this? Didn’t feel like work… at all! Womack really does the tarot community justice in doing her homework, because though this book is a work of fiction, she includes information about how tarot works, along with some pretty fascinating information about handwriting analysis and how someone would receive psychic information. As the character Semele’s psychic gift grows, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between her and the kinds of visions I saw when I was a teenager.

Each chapter is named after a tarot card, and before I started reading the chapter I wondered how it would relate or foreshadow events in the story. The only chapters that do not have a tarot card assigned are the continuing thread of the story of the Oracle of Wadjet (the manuscript that Semele discovers and translates bit by bit), which are indicated by the infinity (leminscate) symbol.

Honestly, I think this fun fiction book should be required reading for my clients with how psychic abilities, divination, prediction, and the future are described: “She explained how the future had a course, yet our lives remained fluid like water, leaving us with a choice in all things. Life’s greatest mystery was how these conflicting truths existed in harmony. It was the reason why intuition existed at all.”

There is some historical fiction involved within this book, namely how tarot came to be in the years prior to what real history states: “‘Within a few years Eteilla, France’s first professional cartomancer, began to publish whole tarot-card-reading systems… Then Eliphas Levi came along and said the tarot was a system of high magic that gave us a glimpse of the inner workings of the universe. Levi believed the tarot would allow anyone to acquire universal knowledge.’”

Even with the historical information, real knowledge about tarot cards, their history, and how psychic information works, this novel was anything but dry… I was completely enthralled in the characters of Semele, Theo, Bren, and finally Ionna: the titular Fortune Teller. But in the end, I had to wonder: who really is THE Fortune Teller here—Ionna or Semele?

In summary, this is a great novel and a pitch-perfect summer read. Those of you with an inclination toward metaphysical romance novels (was there ever such a thing?): this book is for you. Pack it in your beach bag and dive right in!


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© Hilary Parry Haggerty | Tarot by Hilary

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