Greta is the daughter of a female blacksmith and has grown up learning her mother's craft. One day, she saves a Jasmine tea dragon. The dragon's caretaker, Hesekiel, offers to teach her about caring for tea dragons. Each dragon has its quirks, but, when properly cared for, they produce magnificent tea that carries the memories of their current caretaker. Greta's visits to Hesekiel also allow her to get to know Erik, Hesekiel's long-time friend and partner, and Minette, a shy girl who is approximately the same age as Greta and who is closely bonded to a Chamomile dragon.
I didn't realize until I had the book in my hands and saw the little blurb on the cover that this was by the same person who created Princess Princess Ever After. Thankfully, the printing for this volume was better than it was for that one - all of the artwork was bright, clear, and lovely. I'm tempted to get a copy for my own collection, even though I have no idea where I'd keep it.
The story was simple and quiet, focused on the characters' relationships and the details of tea dragon care. The most action-filled moment was a tea-induced flashback to the beginnings of Hesekiel and Erik's relationship as
a pair of adventurers who eventually settled down for a quieter life after Erik was badly injured and ended up in wheelchair.
The entire volume dealt with things that took time and patience, from developing relationships with others to blacksmithing and tea dragon care. The inclusion of both older and younger generations worked really well in this respect. With Greta and Minette, readers could see the beginnings of a sweet and occasionally awkward relationship, while Erik and Hesekiel were a great example of a couple that had had years to get to know each other and settle into life together. There was a little of that when it came to the tea dragons as well, although that was more unbalanced. The process of establishing a relationship with a tea dragon was mostly covered in lectures, because Erik, Hesekiel, and even Minette had already gained the trust of their dragons and bonded with them fairly well.
While I wished this had been a bit longer (Minette's backstory, in particular, felt like it needed more closure), I really enjoyed this. The artwork was lovely. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that CLAMP, particularly their work Chobits, was one of O'Neill's influences - one panel featured Minette in a pose that reminded me a great deal of Chobit's Chi.
Also, the "Tea Dragon Handbook" at the end, which contained more information about various tea dragons and their care, was fabulous. I'd happily read an expanded version of it featuring even more kinds of tea dragons. I wonder what a Pu Erh dragon would look and act like?
If you're hesitant about getting this, it looks like the entire story can still be read online (minus the "Tea Dragon Handbook").
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)