BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Graphic Novel Review: The Tea Dragon Society



Title: The Tea Dragon Society

Publisher: Oni Press

Author/Illustrator: Katie O'Neill

Letterer: Saida Temofonte

Designer: Hilary Thompson

Editor: Ari Yarwood

Pages: 72pp 

Price: $17.99

Greta is training to be a blacksmith, just like her mother. She is not really sure how many people need swords these days, though, so she wonders if it is truly worth pursuing a life as a blacksmith. While making her way through town, she comes across Jasmine, a tea dragon who is lost and desperate to find its caretaker. When she returns Jasmine to Hesekiel, she discovers an entire new way of life -- a life of quiet devotion, friendship, and self-discovery .... As the seasons pass, she comes to learn more about the dragons and their caretakers, the history and power of dragon tea, and the role that she can play in saving that quiet way of life ....

I found a copy of The Tea Dragon Society at a used bookstore. I fell in love with the cover, and snatched it up and took it home. Once I had finished reading it, I immediately sought out O'Neill's other graphic novels.

The Tea Dragon Society is a gentle, loving, and adorably-illustrated story about growing up, making difficult decisions, making and maintaining friendships, love in the face of hardship, and accepting people as they are ... with all of their flaws and quirks.

The world of The Tea Dragon Society is an early-modern, egalitarian, multi-ethnic civilization. Greta is of mixed goblin and human heritage, resulting in horns and dark skin; her constant companion is Brick, an iron-fire elemental. Hesekiel looks a bit like a bipedal llama, with a soft gray coat and large ears. His husband Erik is a brown-skinned human, a former adventurer who was injured and now uses a wheelchair. Minette looks like a cross between a deer and a rabbit: tiny antlers, floppy ears, hooved feet. Minette was training to be an oracle, but now suffers from severe memory loss.

And then there are the dragons. Roughly the size of house cats, they live for nearly a thousand years, and each type of dragon produces a different kind of tea: jasmine, chamomile, peppermint, and so on. The dragon's personality matches the type of tea it produces. The leaves and flowers which grow on the dragons' horns or upon their backs must be carefully cultivated and harvested; and, when they are brewed, the person who drinks the tea can see and experience the memories of the dragon. 

The Tea Dragon Society is not a story of flashy magic, evil wizards, and saving the world. This is a little story about a little corner of the world, and the little girl who has to make some tough decisions as she grows up. This is a story about how important the little things in life -- quiet conversation, devotion to duty, friendship -- really are.

Highly recommended to children of all ages, and dragon and tea lovers everywhere.


Note: the second volume in the series, The Tea Dragon Festival, will be released in Autumn 2019. A Tea Dragon Society card game is already available.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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