The Mark of the Dragonfly, by Jaleigh Johnson (2014)

Genre: Speculative Fiction
Interest Level: 10-15
The Mark of the DragonflyA delightful foray into a strange, steampunk-y world! Piper lives in the Merrow Kingdom. She is 13 years old and on her own after her father died while working in the brutal factories of Dragonfly Kingdom. She earns a living as a machinist, repairing items that people bring to her as her reputation for a healing hand with machinery grows. Home is a scrapper town, where people scavenge the objects that mysteriously appear after the deadly meteor storms that happen regularly. It’s after one of these storms that Piper discovers Anna, alone and unconscious after a meteor hit her caravan. Anna wakes up with no memory of who she is or where she came from, but soon an ominous stranger arrives, threatening the girls’ safety. Off they run, taking refuge on a train heading south and guarded by the young security officer Gee, who has a secret of his own. I was quickly won over by these spunky young characters – Anna is a bookish sweetie, Gee is both loyal and awkward, and Piper is a whirlwind of emotions and determination. Johnson could work a little more on Piper’s character – she makes impetuous childish decisions, followed by whiplash-inducing, highly adult reasoning. As you know, fantasy is not my forte, but this offering from NetGalley is a terrific genre-bender that challenged my dislikes, a lovely blend of fantasy, dystopic science fiction, and steampunk. None of it is heavy-handed, and while the book is aimed at younger readers it does have appeal for younger teens. It would have had broader teen appeal had Johnson made Piper a little older, and that would have also alleviated my irritation with the budding romance that is too mature for this novel. It’s one of several dangling plot threads that suggest a sequel is on its way, and I for one am looking forward to it! A perfect choice for fans of City of Ember or Among the Hidden.
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