Tarot Cafe v1fantasy and science fiction book reviewsThe Tarot Café (Volume 1) by Sang-Sun Park

The Tarot Café (Volume 1) by Sang-Sun Park is a light manhwa that is a pleasant read, particularly if the reader has any interest in Tarot cards. The story is straight-forward: Pamela, the owner of the Tarot Café, is a psychic who provides readings during the day for the regular clientele one would expect to seek out psychic help. However, at night she assists an unusual set of customers, including in this first volume a Cat, a Vampire, and a Fairy.

As a fan of tarot cards, I couldn’t help but enjoy this book. The drawings of the tarot cards are wonderful, and I appreciate that the English version of this book includes in small print interpretations for each of the cards (the original Korean version might include these interpretations, too, but I’m not sure). So, whether you know the meanings already and want to see if you agree with the included versions or you want to learn a little about Tarot, these short divinatory meanings will be of interest.

pamela 1Those of you who are fans of Tarot might also find the following details of interest: Sang-Sun Park relies most heavily on cards from David Palladini’s 1970 Aquarian Tarot (including the artwork from the back of the cards), but she also uses at least one card from each of the following decks: Marco Nizzoli’s Secret Tarot and Antonella Castelli’s Art Nouveau Tarot. There are also multiple cards from the Vampire Tarot and at least one card from the Whimsical Tarot (The Fool card).

I greatly enjoyed this first volume even though it’s such a simple collection of stories. Though the primary appeal for me is the use of the tarot cards, I think this book will appeal to a wider audience looking for a light, fun read. Pamela, the psychic, is the main reason this book works: tarot card 1Occasionally she will purposefully interpret a card incorrectly, and at one point, she even hides the final card from her customer. In each situation, however, the readers are privy to her rationale for not revealing the full truth of the cards. This added twist of an unreliable tarot reader adds charm to each tale. Though I can’t speak for the following volumes, this first one would be appropriate readers as young as thirteen years old. I know I’ll be passing it on to my young daughter who loves both manhwa and tarot. So, if you like manhwa and are looking for a fun, light read, check out The Tarot Café. And if you like tarot, how can you pass it up?


  • Brad Hawley

    BRAD HAWLEY, who's been with us since April 2012, earned his PhD in English from the University of Oregon with areas of specialty in the ethics of literature and rhetoric. Since 1993, he has taught courses on The Beat Generation, 20th-Century Poetry, 20th-Century British Novel, Introduction to Literature, Shakespeare, and Public Speaking, as well as various survey courses in British, American, and World Literature. He currently teaches Crime Fiction, Comics, and academic writing at Oxford College of Emory University where his wife, Dr. Adriane Ivey, also teaches English. They live with their two young children outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

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