The Moth Keeper by K. O’Neill ARC Review {Graphic Novel}

The Moth Keeper by K. O’Neill

Publisher: Random House Graphic

Release Date: March 7, 2023

Pages: 272

Available through Bookshop & The Book Depository

Summary: Being a Moth Keeper is a huge responsibility and a great honor, but what happens when the new Moth Keeper decides to take a break from the moon and see the sun for the first time? A middle-grade fantasy graphic novel about passion, duty, and found family. Anya is finally a Moth Keeper, the protector of the lunar moths that allow the Night-Lily flower to bloom once a year. Her village needs the flower to continue thriving and Anya is excited to prove her worth and show her thanks to her friends with her actions, but what happens when being a Moth Keeper isn’t exactly what Anya thought it would be? The nights are cold in the desert and the lunar moths live far from the village. Anya finds herself isolated and lonely. Despite Anya’s dedication, she wonders what it would be like to live in the sun. Her thoughts turn into an obsession, and when Anya takes a chance to stay up during the day to feel the sun’s warmth, her village and the lunar moths are left to deal with the consequences.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: The Moth Keeper is a contemplative, but equally magical successor to O’Neill’s beloved Tea Dragon Society series! When fennec-girl Anya becomes the newest protector of lunar moths, magical creatures which bestow gifts upon her nocturnal village, she endures lonely nights and as her past is unraveled, so are the deeper profound themes of self-worth and community. This quiet and almost experimental work of O’Neill’s will easily become just as beloved as all their previous graphic novels!

Having only read (and reread many times) O’Neill’s Tea Dragon books, it made me realize this is only the second separate works outside of that series I’ve picked up, which gave me a unique perspective in taking in this new book from them which was on my list of most anticipated graphic novels for this year! Though what instantly stood out to me as distinct from that previous series, was the slower pace and more introspective storytelling which, indeed rewards the reader for their patience in deciphering the deeper messages of the story without a doubt ― which leads me to say The Moth Keeper without a doubt feels like it’ll be one of O’Neill’s more signature novels with the themes it explores.

The quiet lens of TMK allows us to experience this desert setting of a vibrant Nocturnal village filled with humans and humanoid-animal hybrid creatures alike from the distinct culture of legends, tradition and more importantly community, even the warmth & comfort that comes with it, which was such a distinct part of the story that took hold as I continued reading.

Anya, a fennec-like girl becomes the newest apprentice Moth Keeper, tasked with guiding the moths & caring for them night after night with the help of her mentor Yeolen. Though, Anya herself carries this solemn, deep-seated loneliness that unravels only as we continue following her journey to tend to the moths, to truly see she struggles to fit in the village despite her best friend Estell― in addition to the welcoming familiarity of the daytime community… she soon rediscovers how draining it is too keep these feelings bottled up & even exploring themes of burnout as Estell makes efforts to help Anya overcome the challenges that get in her way.

Worldbuilding, storytelling and the character arcs as well are best described as “quiet” in their exploration, rewarding us the reader slowly as hints and new threads are unraveled with each chapter. I believe its both the biggest strength of the story, yet is also unfortunately what left me disappointed at moments in the story. With each page though I was left thinking about how without a doubt the slower pace is essential in the contemplative ways the themes and close-knit story is meant to unfold…yet it felt like for many of these more silent moments there were gaps in the story that could have been filled perhaps with more world-building details, exploration of the Nocturnal & Daytime cultures that would have added a much needed balance to make up for the pacing.

I do believe at times though even the themes aren’t exactly heavy-handed but so plainly stated compared to the symbolism of the Tea Dragon books for instance, which is probably one of my biggest critiques in reading this! With the writing blatantly spelling out the deeper themes of the story, despite the quiet & more metaphorical nature of the setting, the prose itself seemed to take backseat which impacted the flow of the story as Anya keeps to herself as Moth Keeper, jumping between other POV’s and seeing her backstory slowly revealed to us. While these feel like grander, darker themes, being so clearly stated in the text didn’t come across as the expected pay-off intended with the gradual, leisurely pace of everything else.

When it comes to artwork, there’s a rougher, sketchy quality which brings a peacefulness to the atmosphere I can’t really describe. It also brings a warmth to the culture of both communities and especially vibrancy to the unique character designs O’Neill crafts. Additionally, while I love that both the culture of Nocturnal & Daylight communities are given ample page-time, there could have definitely been more opportunities to highlight them much further. There’s more panels that lack dialogue which stood out to me in deciphering Anya’s more thoughtful, reserved personality which, felt pretty relatable to me. I’d been looking forward to this new book since it was announced and I’ve always enjoyed O’Neill’s artwork, so it was nice to see it in a more experimental & different but still wholly familiar style. Since reading this back in early February, what stuck with me and what I continue to enjoy about their books is the art that adds to the unique atmosphere and setting of the story.

Without giving too much of the plot away, I truly believe though aside from my gripes many who’ve read or loved any O’Neill graphic novels in the past will definitely enjoy this one. It’s worth the read and for younger readers it’s a gentle, emotional story about the importance of relying on the loving community and family around you, especially when loneliness or fatigue become a bit much.

The Moth Keeper both quiet and metaphorical is a standout graphic novel from O’Neill! The reserved nature of the worldbuilding, plot and introspective qualities of the main character help to explore the compelling, deeper themes of the story. Community, family and deeper themes of self make for a reflect tale of figuring out where you belong!

6 thoughts on “The Moth Keeper by K. O’Neill ARC Review {Graphic Novel}

    1. I know, seems like I heard about this book ages ago and now we’ll have to wait some time before another amazing book from K., 😭 yes I love that about their books which makes me even more excited to read their backlist! thanks for the lovely comment Dini! 🥰


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s