The third and final book in K. O’Neill’s Tea Dragon series is just as poignant and artfully crafted as the previous two installments. In the first book, aspiring blacksmith Greta meets Tea Dragon Society members Hesekiel, Erik, and Minette; and begins caring for Ginseng, a tea dragon who recently lost her previous owner. Now it’s over a year later, and Ginseng still hasn’t begun to grow new tea leaves, a sign that she is still grieving. Greta is preparing a smithed object for the great blacksmith Kleitos’s test. If she passes, she will move to his forge to become his apprentice. Minette receives a parcel from the monastery where she previously lived with her parents, and where she was training to become a prophet. The parcel contains a tapestry she started but never completed, and seeing it triggers a series of disturbing dreams in which she tries to connect with her ancestors but is unable to do so.

Ginseng’s and Minette’s stories play out in parallel. Greta tries to do everything she can to help Ginseng move on and feel happy again, while all Ginseng wants is time to grieve. Minette wants to focus on the joyful experiences she’s had since she left the monastery, but she keeps getting pulled back into feelings of loss. Both Greta and Minette gradually learn that it’s important to allow oneself—as well as one’s friends—to be sad. As Erik says to Minette, “It’s alright to let those feelings” [of sadness] “wash over you, and give them time to soak into the earth. That’s when things start to grow again.” While Erik means this metaphorically, it could be taken literally, since Ginseng’s leaves begin to grow once Greta makes it clear that she will be there for the tea dragon throughout her mourning period.

As was the case in the previous Tea Dragon titles, the art is beautiful. Humanoid characters are portrayed with a wide range of skin tones, genders, sexual orientations, and abilities, as well as light fantastical elements like horns or antlers. Though the sweeping, border lineless paintings don’t leave a lot of room for facial detail, O’Neill’s illustrations convey even the subtlest emotions with finesse. The colors are earthy and bright, with clear delineation of changing seasons among the background flora. The most memorable and lovable aspect of the Tea Dragon series is the tea dragons themselves, and Ginseng, Chamomile, Rooibos, and Jasmine are all just as adorable as ever.

O’Neill’s Tea Dragon universe is elaborate, and existing fans will be excited to discover that at the end of The Tea Dragon Tapestry O’Neill has included a compendium of essays explaining the universe in more detail. While this book could potentially be read as a stand-alone, readers will benefit from having previously read The Tea Dragon Society, since The Tea Dragon Tapestry continues Greta’s and Minette’s stories first established in that book. Lovers of The Tea Dragon Festival will appreciate the cameos from Rinn and Aedhan. The Tea Dragon Tapestry is a must purchase for libraries where the first two volumes were popular. Recommend this series to pensive kids who enjoy meaningful reads and cute animals. Oni Press has also released related merchandise such as enamel pins, plush tea dragons, and tie-in card games, which may signify an expansion of the fandom.

The Tea Dragon Tapestry Vol. 3
By K. O’Neill

Oni Press, 2021

Publisher Age Rating:  9-12
Series ISBNS and Order

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
Creator Representation: Nonbinary,
Character Representation: Queer, Wheelchair User,

  • Shira

    | They/Them Youth Services Librarian, Northville District Library

    Shira is from the DC area and is currently a Youth Services Librarian in Northville, Michigan. They have been involved in ALA in an Association for Library Service to Children committee, a Graphic Novels and Comics Round Table committee, and as an elected member of the Executive Board of the Rainbow Round Table. When Shira is not putting comics and queer books into the hands of excited children and teens, they can be found snuggling all the cats, playing drums in rock bands, or testing out recently-purchased board games. Shira also writes professional reviews for School Library Journal and AudioFile Magazine, plus not-so-professional reviews of Baby-Sitters Club books in exhaustive detail for their Goodreads profile (username Shiramario).

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