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The Mark of the Dragonfly    by Jaleigh Johnson Amazon.com order for
Mark of the Dragonfly
by Jaleigh Johnson
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Jaleigh Johnson has created an interesting world in her steampunk/fantasy novel, The Mark of the Dragonfly. Intended for middle graders, it might work better for older fans of the genre.

Piper, an orphan at twelve, makes her living as a mechanist in Scrap Town 16, one of the many poor towns surrounding the meteor fields in the Merrow Kingdom. Odd objects from other worlds enter Solace through a hole above the meteor fields, and scrappers grab these items, hoping to finally make enough to leave the scrap towns for the city. Since many of these objects arrive broken, the scrapper in Scrap Town 16 will bring them to Piper who has a reputation as a healer of machines.

Piper never thought of herself as a healer of people. But when a caravan breaks down during a meteor storm, she rescues a girl who bears the mark of the dragonfly which denotes she is part of the royal family of the Dragonfly Territories. Piper manages to revive the girl, Anna, and gain her trust, but soon a man comes looking for Anna and the two must flee. They steal aboard the 401, the train that runs from the scrap town to Noveen, the capital of the Dragonfly Territories. Piper hopes for a reward for returning Anna, but she is in for a much bigger surprise.

The Mark of the Dragonfly featured some really great concepts, but they just didn't quite mesh well. The world is unique and there is obviously some interesting twist to the meteors, but Johnson does not give it away yet. The world of Solace contains interesting races, too, and while the Chameleons (a shifter race) definitely have a reason for being as they are in this story, the Sarnum (an underground psychic race) seem a little too unworldly for their function.

There is also a huge twist to this story, but unfortunately, I figured it out at the start; for readers who do not, though, there is a big surprise towards the end, and being in the dark might help the pacing of the story. The other thing that confused me about The Mark of the Dragonfly but did not take away from the experience was the targeted age group. There are plenty of outward signs of a MG novel, but it just did not feel like one.

If Jaleigh Johnson chooses to venture further into the world of Solace, hopefully some of these issues will be cleared up. If you enjoy steampunk or fantasy and do not overthink things as I tend to do, you will probably enjoy The Mark of the Dragonfly.

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