Firstly, the quality of this deck can't be denied - from the box it's presented in, to the cards themselves, the cards are the benchmark against which all other tarot and oracle decks should be measured, with anything 'less than' falling short of target...a harsh assessment perhaps, but this deck shows entirely what is possible within the realms of deck publishing.
The presentation method is an excellent quality 2 part slide-apart box with a satiny-sheen pearlescent detail finish. There's a grey ribbon to assist with the lifting out of the cards, and a little quote and detail finish inside the box to really hammer home the quality of the production.
The backs of the cards have the same pearlescent sheen as the box, in a reversible scale pattern, and are unusual in that the card backs are light in silvery/white colours - certainly eye catching!
The cards are the same size as the Wild Unknown tarot deck, at a healthy 4 3/4 by 2 3/4 inches (11.9 x 7.9 cm), which are comfortable in my large hands, but might pose an issue for someone with smaller hands (like Donald Trump, for example)...they have a smooth matte finish and shuffling them is a dream! At 63 cards, it's quite a large oracle deck, which is a refreshing departure from the thinner 20-30 card decks that have seen an increase in popular release lately, adding to the feeling of value-for-money and quality of this deck, when you receive a substantial deck, rather than a few flimsy cards thrown at you through the post!
The images are predominantly black and white line illustrations with either a splash of watercolour-style energy added for contrast, or background-washed to give presence to the detail in the foreground illustrations.
The cards are divided into 5 groups - the elemental aspects of earth, air, water and fire, and also animals of spirit. There's a certain logic to the groupings, but others aren't so clear-cut, and there are a couple of 'duplications' (spider and tarantula, and snake and cobra where it feels as if Kim couldn't think of different types of spider or snake, without resorting to the use of the Family rather than the specific Genus)...Water and Air creatures are relatively easy to classify, given their environmental restrictions, but there is the occasional oddity, seemingly in a group because they happen to live somewhere warm, identifying them as a 'fire' animal, rather than whether they have a traditional or symbolic association with a given element.
The 'little white book' is actually a little fold out sheet with a black-and-white printed image of one of the cards on one side (I got the Cosmic Egg!), and on the other are some simple spread examples and a few words about the grouping of the cards into their elemental classifications, and about what each of the cards represents. It's enough to get you started, and certainly gives enough information for the intuitive reader to incorporate the artists ideas around what inspired their initial connection, although someone looking to initially understand animal symbology might need to invest in the guidebook to provide that greater level of direction. As a rule, I don't believe in guidebooks, but can appreciate that for a novice reader or someone who hasn't enjoyed wider reading to incorporate symbology and associations like these, it might be something that provides value.
The art style and imagery are unmistakably Kim Krans and her particular style, and will blend well with the tarot and oracle decks that have previously worked in tandem with her Tarot deck.
The focus purely on animals is interesting - there's a shift currently in the marketplace towards the animal spirit/animal guide approach, and away from human-heavy decks...certainly there's more scope within the wider symbology and associative aspects of animals than humans, and this is a trend that Ms Krans has capitalised on with this deck. It has a couple of flaws, certainly, but these don't detract from its clear quality and high production value. As benchmarks go, this is certainly a go-to deck for the hallmarks of quality, design, and how to make a sophisticated and long-lasting card without needing to make it thick, unyielding or unpleasant in the hand.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on the deck, and your experiences using it!
The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck is by artist Kim Krans, and is available via her website.