First in a series
By Jaleigh Johnson
Available now from Delacorte BFYR (Penguin Random House)
Piper is a scrapper. Where she lives, you survive by mining debris fields right after a meteor shower and selling what you find. She makes a better living than most since she's skilled at repairing machines, a skill that is in high demand.
Then, she comes across a girl, the sole survivor of a group stuck in the middle of a meteor shower. Piper takes her home to recuperate, at which point she's already gotten herself involved in something more complicated than she could ever guess. Piper and Anna set off for the capital, because Anna bears the mark of the dragonfly - and that means the king has some interest in her fate.
THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY is a terrific introduction to a new middle grade series and author. (Jaleigh Johnson has written some tie-in novels for Wizards of the Coast.) You might not guess it from the cover, but this novel is steampunk and features an awesome train guarded by a dragon. I don't even know why that's not on the cover, because it is the best and the people on the train are the best. And Johnson knows how to make a train journey exciting and dangerous.
Some of the adventures in THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY felt like setup for future books rather than part of the current story. For instance, there's a group of raiders just determined to get their hands on the train's young head of security. But for the most part, the story is self-contained and completely satisfied. I'm excited that this is a series, since I like the characters, but I wasn't left disappointed by a half-hearted ending.
There is plenty of the world left to explore. There's tensions between the world powers and the upper and lower classes, for instance. Certain species of people are discriminated against. There's slavery, which is obviously bad. There's Piper and Anna's growing friendship, a true sisterly bond. There's Piper's potential romance, which is kept low-key for the intended audience.
I think that THE MARK OF THE DRAGONFLY will appeal to fans of fantasy and adventure stories, particularly ones with great girl heroes.