Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson is a fantasy story with steampunk elements, for young teens or tweens.

Piper is a young scavenger and machinist, with an uncanny skill with machines. In Piper's world, frequent meteor showers bring fragments of other-world technology hurtling to the ground, accompanied by a poisonous dust. When the dust clears, scrappers like Piper rush to snatch up the fragments, and occasionally something that they find can be repaired and sold for a profit. Since her father died, Piper dreams of escaping the scrap towns and finding a better job as a machinist in a big city, but she knows that escape will take more money than she is ever likely to see. Then, one night, one of Piper's friends foolishly ventures out during a meteor shower, and Piper goes after him. Out in the meteor fields, Piper is amazed to see a caravan coming through, despite the danger. When the caravan is hit by a huge meteor, Piper's friend is injured. Piper rushes to the remains of the caravan, hoping to find medical supplies. What she finds there is a girl of about her own age, alive but unconscious. Piper manages to drag both her friend and the mysterious girl back to her home -- but when a menacing stranger comes looking for the girl, Piper makes a split-second decision to run. The girl, named, Anna, bears the mark of the dragonfly, granting her the same level of protection as members of the king's household. Piper assumes that she will be handsomely rewarded if she can return Anna to her family. The two girls stow away on the 401, a steam engine that carries supplies through the scrap towns to the capital city. But the 401 is guarded by Gee, a boy with mysterious powers -- and the journey will be more dangerous than any of them could have imagined.

This was a good story, but not a great one. I think that its target audience of tweens and young teens will enjoy the friendships that grow between the characters, as well as the fantasy and steampunk elements. I found that there were a few holes in the worldbuilding that distracted me from fully enjoying the story, but perhaps the things that bothered me will be more fully explained in future volumes, as I am fairly sure that this is intended as the first book in a series.

(Reviewed from an advance copy, courtesy of the publisher)

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