. “The more one was lost in unfamiliar quarters of distant cities,
the more one understood the other cities he had crossed to arrive there.”
Earlier this month, Liminal II was so kind to send me an advance copy of a special edition of The Citadel Oracle Deck by Fez Inkwright to review.
I picked a quiet Sunday afternoon to delve into the deck and write down some thoughts.
If this is your first time on my site, a little introduction: my name is Natasa Ilincic, I’m an author and watercolour artist based in Scotland. I write and illustrate books and decks, run homebrew D&D campaigns in my spare time, and I’m passionate about ethnobotany and storytelling – so it’s fair to say that this creation by Fez Inkwright ticked all the boxes for me.
This special edition contains: The Citadel Oracle Deck, The Deck of Emblems, the Spymaster’s Gambit ttrpg campaign, a brass coin, and numbered certificate of authenticity.
You can read the specifics and get your copy here.
Given that this is a deck, why not start this review with a spread of three cards that I believe encapsulate its main strengths:
This card speaks of precision, and hard work driven by dedication and passion. From the moment I opened the box I was impressed with the care and attention to detail that went into the creation of this set.
The box has a Buckram cover foiled with rose gold, a delightfully tactile choice that reminds me of antique books. The colour palette of the deck gives it an elegant and sleek look, enhanced by the heavy cardstock and matte sprayed edges (red for the Citadel, black for the Emblems). The octagonal shape is a unique choice, and gives me a snug feeling when shuffling the cards.
Examining the elements that Fez featured in the cards I see that each one features deliberate and meaningful choices.
Among the plants she picked to adorn “The Crowd” (the Earth suit, embodying hard work and community) in the guidebook I see dandelions, a humble plant whose deep taproot pulls nutrients from the depths of the soil and makes them available to other plants.
I get the clear sense that from the design choices to the art details, nothing was left to chance.
I notice subtle nods to some of my favourite books (especially in the Catalyst and the Adventurer cards), clever botanical references, fitting Latin expressions incorporated with the art. I particularly love the “Faber est suae quisque fortunae” (“Every man is the artisan of his own fortune”), a refreshing concept to include in a deck that can be used for divination.
Overall, all these details speak of a labour of love. The quality of the materials adds the superior finish this creation deserves – but what truly makes it unique are the concept and execution.
This card encapsulates what’s truly special about this deck: its originality.
If feels new, yet familiar and easy to navigate intuitively.
The deck explores the world through people, while simultaneously exploring people’s worlds. It is a clever entwining of microcosms and macrocosms.
Each of the four Suits (Court, Academy, Crowd, Troupe) corresponds to an element, and is assigned to an area of the city.
Despite this partition, no Suit is overshadowed. My initial worry was that humbler Suits (like the Crowd, comprising of labourers and artisans) would be negatively affected by a sense of hierarchy, but that is not the case. The meaning of each card shines through, and negative and positive aspects encompass all Suits.
The Deck of Emblems is a wonderful addition to the Citadel, one that I find particularly useful for shorter and more intuitive readings.
The set includes The Spymaster’s Gambit ttrpg campaign as well, which I have yet to play with my friends (the joys of being in your 30s and trying to find a suitable time for games night!).
Versatility is one of the main qualities of this set. The deck actively encourages us to play with it, explore its potential and bend the rules. I love how it smoothly intersects storytelling and cartomancy.
There are many ways to use the deck: as a personal tool for reflection, a storytelling device, an unconventional way to do worldbuilding (for characters, locations, prompts!), and a fun addition if directly used for in-game fortune telling.
The Citadel Oracle is a profound and deeply human deck, that invites us to reflect and immerse ourselves in storytelling. It embraces nuance with effortless grace, and doesn’t shy away from darkness and complexity.
Fez Inkwright and Liminal II have created a beautifully crafted and highly useful deck that I see myself consulting for many years to come.