Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

Posted March 26, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by  Jaleigh JohnsonThe Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Steampunk
on March 24, 2014
Pages: 400
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley


Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields.
The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home.
The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible.
Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey

I did receive an ARC from the publisher, and I’m hoping this is the first in a new fantasy, steampunk series for middle-grade readers revolving around Piper, an orphan from Scrap Town Sixteen with a talent for machines.

My Take
On the whole, I loved this story, and I hope Johnson writes more! It’s an intriguing mix of tropes that Johnson twists and twists and twists into her own unique tale with chases and rescues via coach, flying boy, gliders, and the top of the train amidst battles with slavers and raiders, oh my!

There’s some nice values in this as well. Ya gotta love Gee when he says he doesn’t like the girls, but they’re passengers on his train, and he’ll do whatever he can to protect them. The loyalty the girls find along the way, and the frightening revelations of Piper’s gift both provide an uplift. The best one for the kids to learn is that having a gift isn’t enough. Ya still need learnin’ to go along with an ability!

The environmental theme is intense throughout the story from the horrors of the meteor fields and the showers to the smog-spewing factories killing its workers and polluting the air to the depredations of the iron-hungry king.

As sad as Piper’s story is, Gee’s tale is sadder. At least Piper’s dad loved her.

A few odd notes: I never got the feeling, at the beginning, that “the wolf” is bad. Too much tell, I guess. The budding romance could have used a bit more tension as well. I don’t understand why Piper doesn’t take advantage of Anna’s tattoo. Why doesn’t Piper try to get their money back? The ending is a bit flat as well. It’s too good to be true!

It’s greed, power, and money—ain’t it always? And the wolf is intent on retrieving his property and more.

It’s a great adventure that kept me riveted — I still can’t believe it was 400-pages long! — and you won’t have to worry about the kids getting nightmares after reading The Mark of the Dragonfly!

The Story
Meteor storms bring treasures—some broken, some not, but all worth money to the desperate scavengers of Sixteen . It’s that fierce desire to find something worthwhile that entices Micah to cheat the fates, and also brings Anna into Piper’s world.

it’s a desperate flight for the two girls as they try to retrieve Anna’s memory and escape Anna’s captor.

Fight or flight, ain’t it almost always the way?

The Characters
The orphaned Piper Linny, 13, has a gift for machines and a desire to leave Scrap Town Sixteen in which she lives.

Anna has a fixation with fixing and an eidectic memory. Piper can live with that…it’s “the wolf” who’s hunting her she may not live through.

The 401…
…is a north-south train that hauls passengers and freight between the scrapper towns in Merrow back to Noveen in the Dragonfly Kingdom. Gee, a.k.a., Green Eyes, is a chamelin, a shapechanger, who’s chief of security aboard the train. Trimble is the fireman with a gift for, you know it, fire. Jeyne Steel is the train’s engineer. Together, they’re a family. Mr. Jalin is one of the porters. Ms. Varvol is a clothing merchant on the train.

The eleven-year-old Micah Howell has a burning need to help his family and dares to disobey in spite of his older brother, Jory. His parents are fishermen and rarely home. Arno Weir is one of Piper’s best customers, is the scrap town’s unofficial mayor, and runs a general store outside his house.

Raenoll is a sarnum woman with a gift for psychometry in Tevshal.

The Trade Consortium keeps the peace and provides healers and a school in return for a cut of the profits. Scrappers brave the meteor fields to salvage treasures — mostly broken but with the rare prize — to make a living. The sarnum are very strong psychically and live underground.

Aron is king of the Dragonfly Kingdom, and he has an itch to explore the world of Solace. With this in mind, he’s determined to gather up every bit of iron in their world, much to the Merrow Kingdom‘s dismay. Doloman is King Aron’s chief machinist and the second-most important man in the kingdom.

The Cover
The cover is the greens of a meteor shower as it screams down from space over the snow-capped mountains of Solace with the golden dragonfly and its iridescent wings front and center. The title is above the dragonfly’s head with the author’s name just above that.

The title is their passport to a refuge and aid, The Mark of the Dragonfly.

Reviewed by Kathy Davie, who is fast gaining followers in Goodreads and Amazon for her honest book reviews. Passionate about reading, writing, and editing, she searches the Internet for tips, tricks, and warnings with a keen interest in ideas that will foster reading in children as well as adults while aiding writers in their craft. Kathy blogs daily at KD Did It Takes on Books.

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4 responses to “Book Review: The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson

    • ladystorm

      This is definitely a good one! I couldn’t put it down. I can see where it could be a standalone, but I’m hoping Johnson takes pity on us. I’m curious to see where this world could go.

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