Reviewed by Christian Roulland Kueng
As a fantasy fiction enthusiast, I’m always looking for books with an otherworldly quality and characters that I can care and worry about. Jaleigh Johnson’s The Mark of the Dragonfly certainly does have that as I was swept into the main character’s world of sarnuns (creatures living underground and speak without words), chamelins (shape shifters), slavers, and bizarre meteor showers.
Thirteen year-old Piper Linney is an orphan living in Scrap Town Number Sixteen in the Merrow Kingdom but she longs to see the world. She survives by scavenging and digging out whatever the meteor storms bring from faraway places to her world. She has an unusual gift for fixing small machines that she finds in the debris in the meteor fields and sells the items at the Trade Consortium. Her talents as a scrapper and machinist are put to the test when, in the aftermath of one particular meteor shower, she rescues an amnesic girl who has a tattoo of the dragonfly on her arm. The king protects anyone who bears this mark. Piper decides to take Anna back to the Dragonfly territories on train 401 where they meet some eccentrics: Jeyne Steel, the engineer; Trimble, the fireman immune to fire; and Gee, the chamelin in charge of protecting the train’s cargo. Piper’s courage, ingenuity, and quick thinking are attributes that come in handy while being pursued by a strange man claiming to be Anna’s father who will stop at nothing to get the young girl.
However, not all of Piper’s actions are altruistic. Due to her circumstances in life, virtually living from day to day, she uses Anna’s plight in the hopes of being handsomely rewarded for helping the girl. The changes in Piper, from scrapper to protector, transform her into a responsible young woman who cares for the new friends. The camaraderie that develops among the train staff and the two stowaways is something deeper than Piper had ever imagined. The orphan girl finds a family.
Although the plot is overall simplistic, young girls in the middle grades will find the story with a female heroine absorbing and entertaining. More importantly, they can look to Piper Linney as a role model.
Mark of the Dragonfly releases March 25, 2014. Pre-orders are available now with all booksellers.
Christian (Chris) Roulland Kueng (pronounced “King”) is the author of Three Genie Brothers, a middle grade urban fantasy. He has an undergraduate degree in fine arts from the California State University at Fullerton, a master’s degree in education from Azusa Pacific University, and a doctorate in organizational leadership from the University of La Verne. In addition, he is a graduate from the Institute of Children’s Literature. He has been a public school educator for 32 years, teaching elementary-school children (grades K, 2, and 4-6) and serving as a public school administrator (principal, director of curriculum, and assistant superintendent). He now works part time at Brandman University as an adjunct professor and doctoral student adviser.Kueng spends his spare time with his family and going to schools to talk about writing and providing writing workshops for teachers and students. Kueng was born and raised in Southern California.