november things

The Phantomwise Tarot is finally out in the world and the wild today, available in places that sell both books and/or tarot decks. It has been a long, long time coming. If my file dates are correct the Fool was painted fifteen years ago, somehow? This evolution is not something I ever could have imagined then and I wish nothing but grand adventures and playful insights for these cards now as they find their way to their readers.

They are probably a suitable deck for beginners as I tried to keep most of the imagery straightforward. (A good time to mention the idea that you can’t buy  your first tarot deck yourself and it has to be a gift is a myth. Do please feel free to buy them for yourself or gift them to someone else as you please.) The cards are also loosely Rider-Waite-Smith based so they can be used with any RWS guides if you are looking for more in-depth guidance.

My endless thanks to the team at Clarkson Potter for taking what just a year ago was a bunch of files on my hard drive and a stack of paintings in my basement and turning them into something magical. I hope when these decks find their new homes they will be shuffled and riffled and well-worn, kept as trusted companions.

The new Vintage UK paperback editions of The Night Circus & The Starless Sea have arrived and they are so beautiful, the cover inks are luminous and the new designs by Micaela Alcaino are simply stunning.

The Waterstones versions have new exclusive content: The Night Circus has a Q&A and The Starless Sea has an essay with thoughts on writing & video games that includes an extended metaphor about how my writing process is like playing Elden Ring. (Are there oblique hints about what I’m working on now in each of them? Maybe.)

We have tumbled into the 5pm darkness freezing cold version of November here, all of the leaves have fallen. We put the fairy-light trees up already but we haven’t taken down the bats or the ghosts yet so they are coexisting festively. I am writing something that is not yet book-shaped, it’s not even up to word soup stage because I tossed nearly all the words that were simmering out in May and I am still reassembling ingredients. But it will be something book-shaped eventually. It is slowly getting somewhere, here in the flopsy kitten cold.

the phantomwise tarot

Over a decade ago, while I was working on what would eventually become The Night Circus, I painted an entire tarot deck in black and white acrylic paint.

Last year I mentioned the deck during an extravaganza of 10th anniversary circus shenanigans and some people talked to other people and plans were hatched and now something quite extraordinary has been conjured in an astonishingly short amount of time.

The Phantomwise Tarot: A 78-Card Deck and Guidebook is coming from Clarkson Potter this November.

The Phantomwise Tarot is a little bit circusy, a little bit Wonderland, and a little bit black-and-white phantasia of its own invention. It is loosely based on classic Rider-Waite-Smith tarot imagery though here there are also ballerinas and pirates and fluffy bunnies and curious cats to help you ponder your questions while you seek your answers.

The guidebook (by me) contains individual card meanings and original spreads. The design by the amazing Clarkson Potter team has elevated everything with a beautiful aesthetic reminiscent of silent film.

More information & pictures over here on a new dedicated tarot page which will contain any additional tarot-related updates in the future and you can preorder the deck over here. These cards have waited a long, long time to be properly released into the wild and I could not be more delighted that they will be able to be held and shuffled and read so soon.

anne yvonne gilbert’s night circus illustrations

The Books Illustrated edition of The Night Circus has been coming together more quickly than I could have imagined and it has been astonishing watching their entire team, especially Anne Yvonne Gilbert, elevate this story into a stunning piece of art. I am continually blown away by Yvonne’s ability to layer so many elements and moments into single images, with so much texture and expression and detail. They are truly magical.

One of my favorite parts of this process has been seeing Yvonne’s initial sketches to get a glimpse of how she begins to conjure all of these layers. It’s like getting to peer behind the curtain at a magic trick in progress. Some illustrations have minor adjustments between sketch and final version, others remain almost precisely the same. Below are some side-by-side comparisons. The sketches are already so beautiful and then the colors breathe so much life into everything. I suspect most people would expect a lot of monochrome from an illustrated version of The Night Circus but these are just buzzing with color.

There are so many details that I adore, from Mme. Padva’s jewelry and Tsukiko’s cherry blossoms and Bailey’s dog to the way the circus tents loom in the background of certain images. And of course I am a little bit obsessed with Poppet’s perfect curls and the most delightful squirrels. (I cannot pick a favorite because they are all so wonderful but the Wizard in the Tree is possibly my favorite so far, it is so sumptuous and autumnal.)

There is still more to come, cloud mazes and bottles and other wonderments, and much more information on this very limited edition of The Night Circus can be found at Books Illustrated. You can sign up for their Night Circus newsletter & they post frequent previews on their Instagram.

You can find more of Anne Yvonne Gilbert’s beautiful artwork on her website.

alice (& vesper)

Twenty-two years ago I spent my senior year at Smith College adapting and directing Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass for the stage. For a time I lived and breathed those books and they have stayed with me, though often in the background, ever since.

Last year I had the pleasure of writing the introduction for the new Signet Classics edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass. As a longtime Alice lover it was a daunting task but Vesper helped, in her Cheshire Cat way. An excerpted version of the introduction can be found on LitHub under the title “How Lewis Carroll Built a World Where Nothing Needs to Make Sense.” (The entire introduction in the book is entitled “Six Impossible Introductions Before Breakfast.”) (The book version contains more Vesper).

books illustrated’s the night circus

A glimpse inside Books Illustrated‘s beautiful upcoming edition of The Night Circus, illustrated by Anne Yvonne Gilbert.

This is truly a work of art & so much effort is going into it at every level. I am honored and delighted to have my words wrapped in such an astonishing package.

Preorders begin Monday, January 17th. Much more information can be found directly from Books Illustrated both on their website and on Instagram.