First, an update.
I have purchase the Steampunk Tarot and I love it.
Then when I got home I went through each of the cards to see how the meanings and imagery came through for me. I have to say that for the most part they resonate with me rather well. There are a few that I am struggling with but on the whole I find reading their meanings and symbolism to be quite easy. I have yet to cleanse and consecrate them so I don't know how they are going to work with me but thus far we are off to a good start.
History of the Tarot:
The exact history of the first tarot cards is unknown - but it is believed that by the 15th century decks were popular enough to be commissioned by patrons. Of course it wasn't until the late 18th-19th centuries that we begin to see the tarot come into 'mainstream' use when it is picked up as a divination method by scholars of the occult.
How I see them working:
For a lot of people there is a great struggle with many of the numerous divination techniques out there simply because they cannot understand how a simple object can deliver a message of the future, and the tarot is no less subject to this skepticism than throwing dice. For many the tarot is just a set of pretty cards (and don't get me wrong there are certainly decks I'd love to own for their imagery more than their divinatory abilities) but tarot goes beyond that.
The images of Tarot tap into the unconscious, they are a method by which we can project and interpret things we subconsciously know but could not otherwise tap in to. Of course the images of the tarot would not be quite so successful if they did not come from the collective conscious. They tap into universal themes and needs and use archetypes to present a message.
So essentially you are tapping into two different sources when you read the tarot - your own subconscious and the collective conscious. This is why two people can read the same card and get slightly different message from them. While you may pick up on the collective imagery you also apply your own understanding to the scene laid out in the card. It is also for the reason that relying heavily on the book that comes with the cards is not the best method to understanding them. By all means read the book, it is always interesting to see where the creator was going with certain choices etc, but I recommend looking at the card and trying to find your own meaning first.