Review: “The Tea Dragon Series” by Katie O’Neill

Hi, all! This post diverges from typical review style nearly as much as it diverges from my normal go-to genres 😂 Today I wanted to share thoughts on Katie O’Neill’s Tea Dragon series. I’ve only read both of the two that are out so far (third coming is soon – details later!) and they were so charming and sweet. They’re a series of fantasy graphic novels, leaning young reader but so beautifully illustrated I decided to pick them up anyways and you’ll see why.

The Tea Dragon Society

Links: Goodreads, Amazon

This is the first book of the series, nominated for a ton of awards including:

Winner of the 2018 Eisner Award for Best Publication for Kids
Winner of the 2018 Eisner Award for Best Webcomic
ALA Rainbow List (2018)

2018 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Kids Comics Winner
Amazon.com’s Best Comics & Graphic Novels (2017)
School Library Journal’s Top 10 Graphic Novels (2017)

The art style was beautiful as I’d expected, and the dragons themselves were so enchanting. I loved the concept of almost tamed companion dragons that have a symbiotic relationship with a bonded human, and it was very easy to get lost in that world. There’s also a lovely relationship between tea dragon and partner where the tea leaves plucked harmlessly from the dragon contain memories of the two of them. Since the dragons have a long lifespan they may bond with many caretakers over their lifetime but go through a mourning period where they shed their leaves after losing someone. There’s something so pure about that interaction.

This book was relatively short as you’d expect from a young reader graphic book and touched on themes of acceptance, appreciating ones culture and heritage, support, and friendship. Greta, the primary character, begins the story learning how to carry on her mother’s blacksmithing legacy but questions its usefulness. She meets local residents and stumbles upon the world of tea dragons, a practice that’s similarly fading in popularity but with rich culture. Befriending others along the way, Greta comes to understand and appreciate so much more of the depth behind tradition and the strength of ones roots.

The friends she meets also have great representation which I was thrilled to find in a young reader book, especially since it wasn’t mentioned in the summary at all. There’s Erik who uses a wheelchair and is in a relationship with Hesekiel, as well as a range of skin tones used in the art.

On whole this was just a really charming book with beautiful drawings and a great message for young readers. Even as an adult I found the drawings and colors used relaxing, and the world Katie O’Neill built to be very absorbing. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a sweet breath of fresh air to break up their reading.

Synopsis

From the award-winning author of Princess Princess Ever After comes The Tea Dragon Society, a charming all-ages book that follows the story of Greta, a blacksmith apprentice, and the people she meets as she becomes entwined in the enchanting world of tea dragons.

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.

From Goodreads

The Tea Dragon Festival

Links: Goodreads, Amazon

After reading the first book I immediately picked up the second because who couldn’t use more tea dragons and gorgeous graphics in the middle of a pandemic? 😂

This book was equally inclusive as the first, opening with a note on how Katie has drawn a character using sign language. I thought this was so incredibly cool, once again. I went to a college with a large deaf population and it’s really fantastic to see a young reader book bringing this up and incorporating it so fully into the story. The back of the book also included more resources on sign language including kid-friendly sites. In addition to the sign language a new dragon character type is introduced that can shift between male and female forms, and the close loving relationship between Hese and Erik from the first book is present again.

Even though Hese and Erik carried over from book one, however, this book actually appears to takes place before the first. Hese and Erik are younger adventurers who travel to an alpine area (with new alpine tea dragon variants!) and help the main character Rinn when she meets the new dragon character, Aedhan. Aedhan is part of a clan of larger dragons that protect villages and oversee festivals, but they had been put to sleep by a mythical creature against their will for an extended period of time, waking up eighty years later.

This sequel is around double the length of the first book and divided into chapters instead of seasons as the first one was. It honestly probably did need that length in order to fully traverse the plot that was laid out. The Tea Dragon Festival has different but equally good lesson as the first – resolving conflict peacefully, recognizing and taking joy in what you’re good at (even if it’s ‘too simple’ or ‘not important enough’), and the idea of coming home and belonging. If you enjoy the first book and are up for a slightly longer read you’ll love this second one!

Synopsis

Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost. 

From Goodreads

Coming 9/1/2020 – The Tea Dragon Tapestry

Finally, there’s a third book coming out soon to make this a trilogy! The Tea Dragon Tapestery is set for release on September 1st 2020! (Amazon link here)

Let me know if you enjoy this series, too! It was a complete off-trail diversion from my normal reading style but left me feeling so refreshed. Hope it might do the same for you 🙂

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