The Paulina Tarot is one of those decks I had high hopes for but unfortunately for me, this one fell a bit short. Paulina Cassidy is a remarkable artist and her talent shines through in this deck - but that being said, I found this deck to be utterly impossible to read with. Let me break it down so you see how I came to my conclusion.
The deck is the standard 78 cards and printed on very quality stock paper. I am a high volume tarot reader so I need a sturdy deck - and US Games never skimps on quality. Like their other offerings, the Paulina tarot has a nice glossy finish that provides the right "slip" for shuffling. The back has a reversible image of two birds (they are kind of vintage looking, which I like).
The artist uses a pen and watercolor method that gives the cards a delicate and ethereal feel. Some of her inspirations for the deck were the Rider Waite and New Orleans. The Mardi Gras vibe can be seen clearly in the festive way some of the characters are outfitted (The Fool is a perfect example).
The colors are muted pastels and at first glance, they are quite pretty and detailed. However, many of the finer details are hard to see in these cards - I had to wear my glasses and look very closely to see some of the images clearly. If you have vision troubles like I do, this is a problem. Unlike some other decks (Rider Waite being an example), the images do not "pop" - nothing stands out and this forces me to have to look very carefully at these cards to find meaning. That may not be a problem to some readers but I need to feel "grabbed" and inspired when I read tarot - I did not get that from these cards.
While the Rider Waite influence is strong in this deck, sometimes the artist formed her own ideas for interpretation. This didn't always work out so well - for example, the 6 of Swords had a muddy feeling to it, which seemed depressing to me. Normally, I interpret the card as moving away from troubles - but in this case, the image seemed mired in muck at the bottom of an ocean. Now that could be a new interpretation for this card, but as a traditionalist, I found this to be confusing and distracting.
Much like that 6 of Swords image, I started to feel like a stick in the mud with this deck. Was I being too harsh? The only way to figure that out is by doing a reading with it. I asked the tarot "How will this deck work for me?". The cards I picked were Knight of Pentacles, The Hermit, The King of Wands. At first glance, the murky colors seemed to blend each card together in a jumbled and cloudy mess and it didn't evoke any meaning for me. I felt frustrated and decided to turn to the little white book included with the deck.
Using some of the interpretations provided by the artist in the book, this combination suggests: reliable and steadfast, deep understanding and a time for self reflection, self-assertion and confidence. In other words, this should be a deck that I can rely on for deeper understanding and perhaps if I put more effort into it, I will develop more confidence in working with it. The lantern on the Hermit cards shines brightly, an indication that there is a message in these cards but I have to look a bit harder to find it.
I have no doubt that some will find this deck to be enchanting and whimsical. I would recommend the Paulina Tarot to tarot collectors for it's beauty or to anyone who likes finely detailed art work. But as a workhorse deck, this is not one that I feel is useable. It's too distracting and not much stands out clearly. A tarot reading needs to flow - and for me, I had to spend too much time squinting to make out the images and this lent to choppy readings. Perhaps spending more time with the deck will cure that problem but for now, it's going back in the box and into my tarot drawer.
I'm giving this deck one sword up, one sword down.