Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
The Magical Tarot Deck by Marieke Lexmond is the much-anticipated second book in the thrilling, dramatic Madigan Chronicles series!
The book picks up right where the last one left off, adding some exciting layers to the epic struggles of the Madigan family, a coven of witches who carry the burden of guarding the magical items that hold power over nature. These three items are the Dagger of Consciousness (often just called “the Dagger”), the Wand of Wisdom (i.e. “the Wand”), and the titular Tarot Deck created by Seamus, one of the late elders of the family.
The Tarot Deck contains 22 cards, each card picturing a member of the family in a life-like, presumably holographic manner. The Tarot Deck serves as the primary McGuffin in this novel, coveted by the heroes, Lucy, and Queen Mab.
However, the other magical items which were established in the the previous book don't lose their relevancy. In fact, similar to the Swords of Valor in Season of the Swords, these items continue to contribute to aspects of the story, often helping characters to solve problems.
Right off the bat, this book is significantly more adult and risque than the last book. This includes a pretty epic orgy scene involving about a dozen or so fairies (ok, we can get into that...) and quite a few F-bombs. The previous book seemed more like a novel that could be read by general audiences, a relatively familiar story about a family dealing with a deranged, estranged family member (with some magic and fantasy added).
This novel really seems to up the ante and take the world-bending, supernatural aspects to the next level. For example, this book is much more focused on the multiversal/multi-dimensional aspect of the world in which the witches inhabit. The Under the Witches Hat bar that served as a major location in the last book seems to serve as a kind of hub bridging many different realms. Some of these realms are inhabited by interesting and dangerous beings like Queen Mab, the queen of the fairies. We'll talk about her and her realm in a bit.
But let's talk about Lucy, our favorite character in the last book, and one of our favorite villains in any book we've read. Lucy was a powerhouse and an absolute menace in The Dagger, an egotistical, power-hungry, homicidal, fratricidal sociopath consumed by a lust for vengeance. In this novel, she is a more subdued and neutered version of herself, both literally and figuratively. She spends a lot of this novel in captivity and bondage. In particular, the magical collar she wears (placed on her by Ceri) greatly restricts her powers. A lot of this book concerns Lucy trying various ways of removing it or working around it, constantly trying to make bargains with Ceri and the other witches to regain her powers. She even tries to work around the restrictions by conjuring magic in the old fashioned way, with homemade spells made with homemade ingredients in a cauldron. It's actually quite fascinating that we get more of Lucy's perspective in this book, humanizing her a bit.
However, she still shows what a ruthless psychopath she can be, capturing and torturing Bridget and putting the witches in quite a dilemma—choosing to either surrender their Dagger to Lucy or risk Bridget suffering and/or dying. Lucy is still a formidable foe, but she seems to be making way for a new villain in Queen Mab.
Ceri is arguably the main protagonist of this book, which is interesting because the previous book seemed much more focused on Tara, Bridget, and Luna. The next book is much more focused on Maeve. So, like we said in our review of The Dagger, this series pretty much features an ensemble cast. The Madigans ARE the main characters, and we get to see many of their arcs progress with equal attention and significance given to them rather than one particular character hogging it all.
Ceri is given the unenviable task of both dealing with Lucy's collar situation and going to the Realm of Fairy to negotiate with the dangerous, powerful Queen Mab. The Madigans, guided by Diane's precog visions and a rather desperate situation, believe that the Realm of Fairy is the best and most neutral ground on which to confront Lucy. Unfortunately, it's run by a mad woman in her own right.
So, here's the really intriguing thing about this book: it features a pretty sadistic choice. Should Ceri and the witches make a deal with the dangerous, demonic Queen Mab to stop the dangerous, demonic Lucy? Should you rob Peter to pay Paul?
And what about this second dagger that seems to emanate great power like the last one?
This novel really shines in the way it plays with different power dynamics between characters. For example, seniority in the family is sometimes trumped by talent and abilities. Diane, a relatively youngster in the group, is given great precedence and consideration. Likewise, Lucy's powers and danger level fluctuate from high to low throughout the tale, and she's often at the mercy of Ceri or Mab while Bridget is, at one time, at her mercy (or lack thereof).
This series continues to be intriguing with the author continuing to weave interesting, complex characters and plot threads.
Check it out on Amazon!