The final instalment in the Tea Dragon series is just as heartwarming, inclusive, and beautiful as you’d expect!
Book: The Tea Dragon Tapestry by Katie O’Neill
Read before: No
Ownership: E-ARC provided free of charge via NetGalley. All opinions my own.
The first two books in this series were more companion stories. The Tea Dragon Society focused on Greta, an apprentice blacksmith, as she got to know the tea shop owners Hezekiel and Erik, their tea dragons, and their ward Minette, while The Tea Dragon Festival shifted to a new set of characters in a different village, with Erik’s nibling Rinn at the heart of the story. This third book flips back to the characters of the first (though with a lovely cameo from Rinn and Aedhan), bringing Minette to centre stage, though all the characters we’ve come to love across both books get their time to shine.
The Tea Dragon Tapestry feels like a reunion of sorts – something about the cozy atmosphere and the quiet stakes makes this book feel like the calm after the storm. None of the books is at all dramatic, but this one gives the impression of life settling into a good rhythm. Minette struggles with her identity, having left the monastery she was training at, and Greta prepares for a smithing test and worries about her tea dragon, Ginseng, who is still mourning her previous owner. Other characters are open about the numbness of depression, or the work you have to put into yourself after a monumental change in circumstances. This has the potential to be quite a sad book, but instead, the constant love and support they receive from the people around them makes it uplifting. I thought that the depiction of recovery from depression was very realistic and well-written, in particular. All three books centre the power of a loving community, but this one most of all – it makes you want to climb into the book and be hugged by all the characters! Hezekiel and Erik’s tea shop is the beating heart of a big family, both found, chosen, and biological, and it’s utterly lovely.
The story takes place over autumn and winter, and the colours are appropriately warm and soothing. The artwork is so simple, but so effective – it all helps blend into this cozy feeling. As always, there are beautiful nature scenes, adorable dragons, and comfortable dinner tables full of food and companionship. Katie O’Neill’s art is always beautiful to look at, and her writing leaves plenty of spaces for you to just absorb the art and reflect, which feels really unique (for someone more used to manga’s busy-ness, certainly!).
The Tea Dragon Tapestry revolves around the themes of family, self-belief, and finding what makes you happy, and I can’t think of a single other non-Tea Dragon book that is so wholesome and kind. It would be a perfect read on a bad day, and it definitely makes me want to think about living more simply and taking the time to find the joy in life. It’s self-care in a book, basically. As ever, there’s beautiful queer and disability representation, and a general sense that whoever you are, you’re worth loving. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Five out of five cats.