Book Review: Tea with the Black Dragon | R.A. MacAvoy

I was introduced to R.A. MacAvoy’s writing in high school when I read The Third Eagle. I was not aware of who the author was, or that she had written other books prior to it. The high school library had The Third Eagle, but none of her other works, so I didn’t think to look.

Recently I picked the book back up to add to my shelf and The Twisting of the Rope. Both of which I picked up with the intention of doing book reviews on them. Come to find out, as I was scheduling posts, that The Twisting of the Rope is the follow up book for Tea with the Black Dragon.

I did a skim read of The Third Eagle, seeing as it has been well over a decade since my last read with it, and had a disheartening realization that, though meant well, the author’s particular expressions in regards to people’s races does, in this modern era, come off sounding blatantly racist.

I had to wonder if that propensity was within her debut novel or if it was particular to that story. Sadly, I must say, the terminology used within Tea with the Black Dragon does still reflect some very old concepts for terms.

I obtaining my degree in Liberal Arts: focus in Asian Art History and Asian History in 2011. While taking classes on Middle East, Islamic, Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Art and History I learned from more than a number of professors that “orient” and “oriental” are not politically correct terms. There are people who are determined to call the terminology a slur. There are others that shrug indifferently and say it’s none of their concern.

For me, because I was taught the history behind it as a reference first to the Near East, which slowly shifted to Middle East, and then Far East, I found the term incredibly misleading. There were movements of Chinoiserie and Orientalism in references to a Westerner appropriating artistic elements from the Eastern areas as a method to flaunt their wealth and show they were widely traveled and more advanced in their thinking than their fellow man.

I speak of this before getting into Tea with the Black Dragon because this book reads like someone who is trying to talk more about Asia, but it’s coming off as a sci-fi/fantasy version of Chinoiserie. It doesn’t feel authentic. For the floral verbosity of the author, it’s…uncomfortable.

The story line is short, and yet comes off as a winding mianderment. Maybe it presents as a tedious work because of my opinion on the use of the term Oriental to refer to an individual of Chinese decent. Maybe it’s the part that as the main character talks, she loses authenticity and instead becomes a performer for the author by which to prove an extensive knowledge of stories, philosophy, and education.

I cannot call it a pleasant read. I have to wonder, if I did not have a concept about some of these represented issues due to my own education, if I would have found the story enjoyable. As the world progresses, sometimes what was progressive for its time, becomes an addition to the many problems instead. I hope, with regard to my own writing, to work diligently in representation so as to avoid becoming a problematic author thirty years from first publishing.

I do not wish to use the phrase “it is a product of it’s time.” That tends to be used too often to trivialize a person’s issues with a particular product. I would rather say, the author meant well, but the world turned enough times to leave these stories to stagnate. I don’t think it has a place in the sci-fi or fantasy dialogue going forward. It is more a marker for the history of the genre’s advancement. Sometimes those markers are problematic, looking back.

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Chapel Orahamm View All →

I am a writer and artist working through the Kavordian Library series. I write sci-fi, fantasy, lgbt romance.

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