Reviews: The Tea Dragon Society & The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O'Neill

Title: The Tea Dragon Society (Tea Dragon, #1)
Author/Illustrator: Katie O'Neill
Publisher: Oni Press
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 72 Pages
Published October 2017

Summary: 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.

The lovely Margot Wood and the team at Oni Press sent me a copy of this book to review, since I picked up an ARC of the prequel at BookExpo but I didn't know anything about the story, so everyone recommended that I read this one first. And let me just say, I'm super glad that I did~

For starters, the illustrations are absolutely adorable. I read O'Neill's Aquicorn Cove (you can read my review here!) and I absolutely loved how sweet and colorful all of the illustrations were, so it was refreshing and exciting to see them again in this book. The hardcover book that this story is nestled in is so gorgeous and adorable. The tea dragons in the story were also super cute -- they reminded me of little Pokemon/pets that follow you around and you bond with them and you become a partnership! The guide in the back of the book was also helpful and hilarious, because it helps you learn a lot about the tea dragons themselves.

And Brick deserves their own paragraph because they were just so freaking adorable -- a little blacksmith cat!! Ugh. I know this review is 99% me gushing about the cute things that show up in this story, but honestly, that's okay, because this story is packed full of adorable things. 

I really enjoyed this story because it was a nice, easy, calming story with a gentle pace to enjoy on a beautiful day -- I devoured this story while I was sitting in the shade by my fire pit, in a single sitting, because it was that easy to fall into and get comfortable. 

Overall, I think that this story was super adorable, and I suddenly understand why everyone around me loved it so much. I've been trying to dive into more graphic novels lately, and this was the perfect place to start. I'm excited to wear all of my tea dragon enamel pins and show them off!

Title: The Tea Dragon Festival (Tea Dragon, #2)
Author & Illustrator: Katie O'Neill
Publisher: Oni Press
Rating: 4/5 Stars
Hardcover, 136 Pages
Publication Date: September 17th, 2019

Summary: 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.

This is the prequel to The Tea Dragon Society, and I was lucky enough to pick up an ARC of this from the Oni Press booth during BookExpo this year. That's also when we got to talk to Margot, and I tried really hard not to fangirl because she's my publishing idol and I was seriously so starstruck. So, yeah. I got an ARC of this book, which is why Margot sent me The Tea Dragon Society to read before I started this one. Which I'm glad I did! So without further ado, let's get into my review.

Something that stood out to be right away, in the best of ways, is how inclusive this story is. There's a non-binary MC, and also another central character who is deaf, so the rest of the village learns sign language to communicate with her. There was a lot of inclusivity that went into this graphic novel, and I really appreciated and enjoyed that.

In terms of where the book fits in with The Tea Dragon Society, this one is a prequel, but it stands alone so you can read it without reading The Tea Dragon Society. Some characters make a reappearance, so it's nice to read the other one first, but it's not a requirement for understanding and enjoying the story! The tea dragons themselves aren't really explained in this book, though, since an extensive explanation was provided in the other book -- so that's really the only issue I can see with trying to read this book as a standalone.

I really loved seeing some of the characters like Erik and Hesekiel making a reappearance as their younger selves, especially during the ending where they allude to their future together! Those are the little things I was talking about, where the story can stand by itself just fine, but readers who read the previous book would also get a little extra layer and understand some other references and Easter eggs. So just keep that in mind before you pick up this book -- you'll get a deeper understanding by reading The Tea Dragon Society first!

Once again, Katie O'Neill knocks it out of the park with her gorgeous illustrations, especially during the nighttime festival scenes, which were so beautiful that I was in awe and had to take a few extra minutes just to flip through the images and look at all of them.

Overall, I enjoyed this one just as much as I enjoyed The Tea Dragon Society. If you're looking for a comfortable, adorable graphic novel with beautiful illustrations to settle into, with some light fantasy elements but nothing too intricate, I'd definitely recommend starting here, or with any of Katie O'Neill's work!


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