Tea AND Dragons?! #yesplease
The Tea Dragon Society
By: Kate O’Neil
I loved this book so much it warrants the second-ever gif on my blog. This was my face the entire time I was reading:
I picked up this beauty while I was browsing through the graphic novels on NetGalley and the title immediately caught my attention. How could I not read something about tea? The dragons were just an added bonus. I figured the story would be simple since this is a Middle Grade book (ages ~9-12) but boy was I in for a treat.
There are so many interesting things I’m having a hard time sorting them out in my head to write this review.
Let’s start with the major theme: traditions. The book begins with Greta questioning whether it’s still important for her to learn her mother’s craft. She comes from a line of blacksmiths, but apparently it’s a dying art. Along the way she runs into a dragon, which she later learns is a tea dragon. Like blacksmithing, raising a tea dragon is no longer a cherished skill. Greta, her friends and her mentors all grapple with whether, how and why people should keep traditions alive.
As for the dragons themselves, well, O’Neil certainly put time into creating their stories. Each dragon produces a specific type of tea. When the tea is brewed properly, is has magical properties and contains all of the memories it has with its caretaker. Each tea dragon has its own personality and they’re notoriously difficult to care for. They are quite unlike their full-dragon cousins.
Early in the story, Greta meets Minette, a lost girl. I don’t want to give too much of her backstory away, but I thought it was exceptionally clever of O’Neil to have a tea dragon pair with Minette in her time of need.
Throughout the novel, there’s also an LGBTQIA undertone. It’s not overtly obvious, in fact, unless you’re paying close attention you might miss it. While some novels attempt to push a political agenda down your throat in such a way that destroys the integrity of the story, the LGBTQ* elements were woven in so seamlessly that they just made sense.
The Tea Dragon Society was a well-written, beautifully illustrated, fully immersive experience. I’m actually kind of upset there aren’t more novels out (yet?).
I want to know how Greta and Minette grow. I want to find out more about their families. I want to see what becomes of blacksmithing, tea dragon raising and other old-world crafts. I want to see what happens to Hesekiel and Erik. How do they care for each other? What exactly happened during the battle the tea dragon alluded to?
If you’re reading this, do me a favor: grab a copy of The Tea Dragon Society and make sure all of your friends to the same. It comes out on October 31st but is already available for preorder on Amazon. It’s so wonderfully pure. It may feel like there’s little hope for humanity these days, but The Tea Dragon Society is a ray of sunshine in the darkness.