Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on March 25, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Steampunk
Source: Amazon Vine, 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.
THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY is a fun middle-grade fantasy, full of action, steampunk goodness, and great characters. I devoured this book in a matter of hours, all the while wishing I read more slowly so I could enjoy it for longer. As far as I know, it’s a standalone, but I do hope there’s enough interest to turn it into a series because I adored Piper and Anna, and the world they live in.
Thirteen-year-old Piper is an orphan, making a living as a scrapper and by fixing the finds of others. In her world, meteor showers bring objects from other lands. Scrap towns have sprung up around the meteor fields, but scrapping isn’t really enough to make a living. Piper’s father went to the machine factory in Noveen to try and make a better life for them both, but lost his own in the attempt.
So Piper lives by her brains and mechanical abilities, until the day she rescues a mysterious girl from a meteor shower. Anna has no memory of who she is or where she came from, but does have a dragonfly tattoo — the mark of the Dragonfly — which shows she’s under the protection of the Dragonfly king. But when a dangerous man comes after Anna, she and Piper flee on the 401, a train which travels between both lands.
I loved almost everything about THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY, from Piper and Anna to the writing to the story itself. Piper is a great main character, a great role model. I loved that she was talented with machinery, fiercely loyal, and, well, scrappy. At one point she thinks of Anna as only a way to a better future, of the reward she’ll get from the king for rescuing her, but once truths about Anna’s past are revealed, Piper realizes that she values Anna more as a person than a source of money. Anna herself was a fun mystery to untangle.
The writing was nice and smooth, very readable. At times I did think Piper was a little mature for her age, but I could see that maturity coming from losing her father as well as her practical nature. There also was a hint of romance I could have done without, but it didn’t really go beyond crushing and acknowledging feelings, so I didn’t mind it too much.
The story in THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY took a different angle than I expected — based on the beginning of the book, I thought it would be about the meteor showers and the scrap fields, but the book really takes off after Piper and Anna get on the 401. The plot is mainly concerned with the mystery of Anna’s origins as well as getting her to safety. I do wish there had been more about the meteor showers because that really intrigued me, but hopefully that will come up in a sequel.
I also want to give a quick mention to Piper’s father. Although he’s dead at the start of the book, the love he had for his daughter, and the support he gave her, was very apparent. I liked that Piper did little things to keep his memory alive, such as keeping the drawings he sent her and wearing his old coat.
Overall, I really enjoyed THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY. The book sucked me in, much like Anna’s plight sucked Piper into an unexpected, life-changing adventure.
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