I don't know why it's taken me so long to do a review of this deck!! Actually, I kind of thought I'd already done one, but I'll be buggered if I can find the damned thing, so I'm going to put it down to some kind of daydreaming review, where I've obviously written it in my head and then never actually committed it to paper!
The deck is clear, expressive and remarkably 'mood influenced' through its colour for each suit (blacks and greys, set against a pink background for Swords; oranges and greens, against a sky-blue and white background for Rods; browns, greens and rust colours, against a black backdrop for Pentacles; and blues, purples and pinks against a yellow background for Cups), and each card has a unique border styling to frame it, more or less, in a way that feels quite in keeping with each unique card design. There's also a styling given to the various suits, with foxes (or kitsune, as they truly are, with their multiple tails) for fire/Rods, the crow or raven for air/Swords, the boar for earth/Pentacles and mer-folk for water/Cups.
The designs are all bold, confident, gorgeous curves and sharp angular designs which draw the eye and focus the attention. The decographic expression here is amazingly done, with layer upon layer of design contributing to the overall feel of the image. Taylor has done for "computer aided arty goodness" what MichaelAngelo has done for tall ceilings. There's also a weathering to some of the designs, especially some of the swords, where there's markings or rust on the blades, or marks on the tunics of the characters portrayed, and it just gives a more 'solid' feeling to the images, so that they're less two-dimensional, and have more depth.
The court cards are a particular joy, well expressed, beautifully detailed and conveying the real emotion of the card, rather than being plain two-dimensional characters. The Knight of Swords, on his three-headed crow steed is a perfect example of how the decisiveness, perception and determination of the Knight is represented seemingly effortlessly through the image.
The Majors are similarly skilfully rendered, with some of my favourite ever expressions of the cards appearing in this deck in the form of the Empress (less cow-heavy and floral, and more back-to-the-gym-after-childbirth-yummy-mummy-meets-wonder-woman), and the High Priestess shown masterfully as being the interlocutrix between the worlds, expressing the natural, the transformative, the star-child, the veil, all in one meditating character. The many-armed Magician and Devil cards enjoy a beautiful juxtoposition in their expression, and the Hierophant, so often a cause of 'meh!' reactions from readers and querents alike, appears here as a wizened old man, less religious, more bookish, less aloof, more connected in a similar way to the High Priestess with the beyond, and how it expresses itself in the 'now', less proscriptive, more mentor. The Moon, always a favourite card in any deck, was a real moment of grasping how it expresses the reality versus illusion line of meaning, with the focus on seeing the truth of the matter, rather than succumbing to our wilder fight-or-flight fears...
They're RWS sympathetic in their design, but do deviate from the norm sufficiently to bring something fresh to the table without being such a radical departure to require mental gear clashing and leaps of faith to reach the intended meaning of the cards. Taylor Ellis produced this deck after a relatively short period of reading the tarot, and so that freshness of experience and bold vibe has translated very well to his creation. The accompanying staple-bound A5 booklet has the story of the journey through the majors and each suit in a way that I've not seen done before, and lends itself as a great aide-memoire for those early on their own personal tarot journey, and as a fresh viewpoint to the more established or experienced reader. The cards are a good size, measuring up at 4 3/4 by 2 3/4 inches (11.9 x 7.9 cms), lending themselves very well to the artwork, without being too large to shuffle, and all have a standard white border (personally, I'd love to see a borderless version of this deck, as I think it would really add something to it!), and the design on the back is a semi-reversible black and white design (it's the same design white on black upright, and black on white reversed, so if you're paying particular attention you can tell if a card is upright/reversed, but not distractingly so) which was modified from the 2nd edition to the 3rd.
The cards are now available in their standard card stock, or in a plastic stock...I've only the card stock myself, but would imagine that the plastic stock would lend itself well to the design specifics of a graphic-designed deck which puts such an emphasis on bold and bright colours! The card versions are lightly coated and shuffle like a dream, smooth enough for hand-over-hand or casino shuffling, but not so shiny that they shoot out of your hands at the first attempt at a riffle!
There's also a digital version of the deck available via a Fool's Dog app on both iOS and Android, which really enables the colours to pop, seeing the designs 'on screen' as they would have been seen by Taylor when he completed the designs on his computer, rather than being translated to a printed format.
The Ellis decK was used straight out of the box when I first acquired it, so confident was I that the connection was there, ready to go, and it's a very rare day that the deck isn't within arms reach, travelling with me and ready to draw from at a moments notice, and it's a deck that has never, ever disappointed in the messages it provides for my clients or when reading for myself.
It's a firm favourite, giving something bright, bold and passionate in a way that was refreshing, revitalising and such a departure from other designs, artwork and presentation that I immediately fell in love with it - it's a deck that I only have good things to say about, and would heartily recommend it to you if a modern design or bold colour appeals to you at all!