Warning: If you have not read “The Fortune Teller” by Gwendolyn Womack, don’t read this review if you don’t want spoilers!
I’m back with another book review, and this time it’s “The Fortune Teller” by Gwendolym Womack! Here’s a summary so we know what it’s about:
“Semele Cavnow appraises antiquities for an exclusive Manhattan auction house, deciphering ancient texts—and when she discovers a manuscript written in the time of Cleopatra, she knows it will be the find of her career. Its author tells the story of a priceless tarot deck, now lost to history, but as Semele delves further, she realizes the manuscript is more than it seems. Both a memoir and a prophecy, it appears to be the work of a powerful seer, describing devastating wars and natural disasters in detail thousands of years before they occurred.
The more she reads, the more the manuscript begins to affect Semele’s life. But what happened to the tarot deck? As the mystery of her connection to its story deepens, Semele can’t shake the feeling that she’s being followed. Only one person can help her make sense of it all: her client, Theo Bossard. Yet Theo is arrogant and elusive, concealing secrets of his own, and there’s more to Semele’s desire to speak with him than she would like to admit. Can Semele even trust him?
The auction date is swiftly approaching, and someone wants to interfere—someone who knows the cards exist, and that the Bossard manuscript is tied to her. Semele realizes it’s up to her to stop them: the manuscript holds the key to a two-thousand-year-old secret, a secret someone will do anything to possess.”
The concept of the book seemed interesting, but I think it overall failed in its execution. The book is fast-paced enough to hold your interest but ultimately pointless and has very little of a main plotline, if any at all. The multiple stories spanning some 2000 years make it hard to follow the main plot, and eat up the space of the supposedly major characters. Because of this, you never get to properly know them, and when one of them died, I couldn’t care less. That’s really bad because clearly that death was supposed to elicit a strong emotional reaction.
Semele was a hard character for me to like overall. She never stuck up for herself and never really took control of the situation. She ran away from literally every problem facing her. She even pushed her adopted mother aside and avoided her boyfriend because she was afraid to tell him quits, which I thought was extremely stupid of her to do! Seeing her boyfriend’s future was a weak excuse to break up with him and she should have been honest that she didn’t like him but Theo. Semele was also judgmental, selfish, and jealous, and I don’t think she deserved the happy ending she got due to her numerous mean and selfish actions towards others.
Though I’m no history expert, the historical aspects of the smaller stories in the book felt half-baked. Famous historical figures like Cleopatra, Caesar, Ghiberti, and Rasputin felt like celebrity cameos. Because of the large amount of characters appearing as the story unfolded, I also had a hard time remembering who each character was in each story the importance of their placement in the book.
The other characters existing in the book, such as Theo and Bren, were just very flat overall. Again, because of the multiple smaller stories, we didn’t have a lot of time to properly know any of the characters. I think if we had less side stories and more of a main plot, it would give us more time to develop and really get to know the characters in the present day.
I was also disappointed by how little the tarot cards themselves were used, despite being constantly mentioned as being powerful. They’re talked about but they never actually do anything at all and are basically useless. This makes it very awkward for me as a reader, given that importance was highly touched upon in the summary itself. If certain items are going to be important and make such an impact, I feel like those items themselves should have more significance for determining the action in the book.