I knew this was going to be cute, but I never imagined just how cute it would be.
Everything about this series is so lovely, it’s such a sweet and heartfelt experience. The reading experience of these books is genuinely so pleasant and calming, I can’t recommend it enough.
If you want a quick and soft read that just immerses you in a lovely world, which is great for readers of any age, please please please check out The Tea Dragon Society and its spinoff, The Tea Dragon Society. (You don’t have to read one before the other—each can stand alone!) The atmosphere of the books are a little different from each other—The Tea Dragon Society being a little more pink and pastel and lovely, while The Tea Dragon Festival is a little more grounded and earthy, but just as beautiful.
I’m the type to love The Tea Dragon Society’s pink flowery vibe (see: this blog), but I was still absolutely in love with The Tea Dragon Festival, especially because my favorite tea dragon (the smol fluffy grumpy one!) is in it! And oh, you’ll definitely find a favorite, if you read.
The art itself was beautiful and intricate but not too much.
Something about Katie O’Neill’s books are always so understated by still richly developed. It’s totally possible to speed through The Tea Dragon Society in an hour or less, but I really enjoyed being able to slowly look over all the art and take in each artfully placed flower and every frame of the graphic novel.
It never felt overwhelming though, which is the case with some graphic novels for me, and I was very soothed by the whole experience. All the flowers helped complement the story and worked with it and didn’t necessarily feel forced into the art, given the nature of the novel.
For The Tea Dragon Festival, it leaned away from flowers and more towards leaves and earthy plants, but it was just as lovely but different enough that it didn’t feel like a carbon-copy, but an expansion of the work, which is what it is.
You do not have to read The Tea Dragon Society before you read The Tea Dragon Festival—they’re both independent stories (although you may recognize cameos) that are just set in the same world.
There are woods and magical forces and a lot more browns and greens in the story, which I loved. AND THE DRAGONS. Oh my gosh, they’re so small and some of the most precious things you’ll ever see. I felt like the vibe of Tea Dragons worked so well with the atmosphere of the world and rest of the story, and they really helped shape such an immersive experience.
They’re small (~40 cm) but they have such strong personalities in each type of dragon (some grumpy and curmudgeonly, others playful, etc.) and mixed with the magical element of their tea, which can be made from the plants that grow on their bodies, create such an innovative and unique and very soft take on magical creatures.
Don’t expect a giant intricate plot.
For me, The Tea Dragon Society and The Tea Dragon Festival are both novels that are experiences more so than stories. It’s not just reading for the storyline, it’s reading to be immersed in the lush and beautiful world O’Neill has built around the characters and endearing animals.
The Tea Dragon Society feels very fluffy and there isn’t a giant main storyline with huge challenges, but it is gorgeous and lush and still has emotional conflict. It’s lovely in its own way (approximately 80 pages!) and is not necessarily be the same sort of story-building as 200+ page graphic novels. It’s very much a small journey and an emotional journey for the main character as she figures out what she wants to do with her life.
The Tea Dragon Festival is a bit longer (around 130 pages!) and it definitely has more plot—although it still keeps a lot of the same gentle touch on the story that The Tea Dragon Society has. It features a nonbinary protagonist (!!!) and a small adventure they have around their town (and maybe some . . . other dragons?!) and helps expand the world while also still keeping the things people loved from the first novel.
I think the best way to approach both of these books is to go in for the experience and the soothing nature of the novel and how it’s very much a calming experience, not an action-packed adventure novel.
Everything was so precious and I’d highly recommend.
Even if you’re not a graphic novel person, it’s definitely very possible to read and enjoy these and be soothed by the world. The art is rich and beautiful, the dragons are endearing and precious, and the worldbuilding is so lush and natural that I can’t get enough.
I really hope we’ll get to see another Tea Dragon book in the future because I’m just so in love with the world and the magic. (I mean, just look at the art!) I’d highly recommend anyone who is looking for a soft and easy reading experience with endearing characters to pick Katie O’Neill’s books up.
Thank you so much to ONI Press for sending copies of The Tea Dragon Society and The Tea Dragon Festival in exchange for an honest review!