I fell in love with the first book in this series, The Tea Dragon Society, so I was over the moon to be approved to read the sequel on NetGalley!
Book: The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill
Read before: No
Ownership: Digital proof provided free of charge via NetGalley. All opinions my own.
More of a companion novel than a direct sequel, The Tea Dragon Festival is set in a tiny mountain village where Rinn, a non-binary forager, finds a sleeping dragon, Aedhan. Aedhan’s been asleep for 80 years, and he has a lot of guilt over the time he’s missed, when he was supposed to be looking after the village, but as preparations for a festival begin, the villagers are happy to help him find his new place. Rinn, too, learns to appreciate their own talents and to find happiness in their life, thanks to the sparks that Aedhan creates in their life and the support of those around them. Hesekiel and Erik, two key characters from the first book, show up, which I loved seeing – they are Rinn’s uncles, and they’re still the same loveable, strong, reliable couple that we came to love. There’s less of a focus on the tea dragons themselves, but this is a fantastic expansion of the world.
The combination of the lush art style and the wholesomeness of the storylines really hits the spot for me, and almost reminds me of the feeling you get when you watch a Studio Ghibli movie. There’s a great attention to the details of the natural world, and the colours are warm and welcoming, and the village life that is depicted makes you want to up sticks immediately. Some of my favourite stories focus on low-stakes magical life in quaint villages, and this is definitely feeding my dream to become a village witch…
As always, the story is quietly and fundamentally inclusive – at the start of the book, you get a little introduction as to how the panels will show characters speaking ASL. We learn in the course of the story that when one of the villagers was born deaf, the whole community learned sign language, and it’s become a simple, everyday part of communication. The villagers comprise many different races and ethnicities, Erik and Hesekiel are a happy and comfortable m/m interspecies couple, and Rinn’s non-binary identity is never anything but accepted. This is such a kind and thoughtful world, and it is an absolute joy to read! It just feels soft and warm and relaxing – it’s a perfect comfort read.
I wish I could frame several pages from this book, just to bring that sense of magical loveliness into my everyday surroundings. Be right back, I’m off to the forest to hunt for mushrooms (and maybe a dragon)… Five out of five cats, of course.