Written By: Katie O’Neill
Illustrated By: Katie O’Neill
Published By: Oni Press
Release Date: Available Now
In a remote village way up in the mountains, lives a young woman named Rinn. She has grown up caring for the Tea Dragons that live in her hometown. Whilst out foraging for plants one day, she comes across a sleeping dragon in a dilapidated house. His name is Aedhan, and unbeknownst to him, he has been in an enchanted sleep for eighty years. As luck might have it, two familiar faces arrive back in the village that can help track down the beast that caused this magical slumber, before there are any more victims.
We return once more with another Katie O’Neill book and the continuation of the Tea Dragon series. We have experienced what a Tea Dragon Society is like, now we venture into a Festival. Although this particular book is known as a Companion Story to The Tea Dragon Society, I see it more as a prequel. As we meet both Erik and Hesekiel once more, but in the prime of their youth. Having traveled together for some time, they journey back to Erik’s village in the mountains where we meet his niece Rinn, the heroine of our story. Although these two familiar faces manage to take more of a backseat in this story, they play their part near the end of the adventure. Ultimately this tale is about Rinn and the village’s Dragon Guardian Aedhan, as he begins his duties much later than expected.
Throughout this book we discover how unique this World is, where Tea Dragons, Celestial Dragons and other civilized animal humanoids live together. This World isn’t without it’s dangers though, as we see later on. It is a charming Universe nonetheless and I can fully understand why it has gotten so much love. Full credit has to go to Katie, for this wonderful franchise she has brought to live.
Now back to the story at hand, much like the first book we meet yet another young female character that is struggling with their future career. Rinn is training to be a cook, unfortunately it doesn’t seem to come naturally for the girl and through the new Guardians help – she accepts the talents she does have and decides to focus on her strengths. Now the Guardian – Aedhan, he has not had an easy go of it. Having only arrived at the village and his new Shrine home, he comes under an enchanted sleep and doesn’t awake until 80 years later when Rinn & her Tea Dragon come upon the forgotten shrine. Aedhan is forced to come to terms with the situation and the loss of nearly an entire century to sleep. Having not been able to carry out his duties as Guardian, he has missed out on some very important moments in the village’s history, from celebrations, to births and even deaths. Eager to make up for lost time. He throws himself forward at every opportunity to help the village – and of course, Rinn.
As well as this being an LGBTQ friendly book, as we already know the obvious relationship that Erik and Hesekiel have in the previous book – The Tea Dragon Society. We see the early days of their relationship and an important conversation between them, where they begin planning ahead for their future retirement – in a tea shop. Another moment I want to focus on is between Rinn and Aedhan, as they have a quiet conversation between themselves up in the mountains. The topic Rinn approached Aedhan with was about a dragons’ ability to change between genders and if it was possible. His answer seems to have been an important one for Rinn, as she seems to be deeply thinking about it in regards to herself. Perhaps we may learn more about that particular journey for her in the next book.
The creator of ‘The Tea Dragon Festival’ is New Zealand born author and illustrator – Katie O’Neill, who is also an Eisner award winning author. This award is given to people that have been nominated for their talents and creative achievement in the comic book industry. Ms O’Neill was nominated for this prize just last year for her book ‘Aquicorn Cove’. She also won the award twice back in 2018 for the first book in the Tea Dragon series – ‘The Tea Dragon Society’, which won both the Best Webcomic & Best Publication for Kids for ages 9-12 categories. Ms O’Neill’s other works include ‘Princess Princess Ever After’, ‘Aquicorn Cove’ and ‘Dewdrop’, all of which have been released by Oni Press. Infact, ‘The Tea Dragon Society’ series has also been adapted and released as a Card Game, Pin sets and Plush toys due to its popularity. All of which can be found and bought on the Oni Press website.
‘The Tea Dragon Festival’ is once again another charming and enchanting story by Katie O’Neill. With a story that focuses on many emotional challenges, relatable topics, a small insight into gender identification, as well as highlighting a community’s openness to learn sign language to help include another member of the village as much as possible. This is an all round, feel good book and one I would highly recommend!