I felt like I was missing out when I kept hearing about Steampunk – so I tried to keep an eye out for it in my reading. Now, everywhere I turn I am hearing about it; “Steampunk” clothing was recently the theme of my daughters’ favorite TV fashion show. But for me, Steampunk is just a fancy new name given to the types of stories I’ve loved since I was a kid. Complex machines, intricate clockworks, magic and fantasy — it all fits in here. Roald Dahl, Frank Baum, Jules Verne and Dickens, apparently, are on trend.
The Mark of the Dragonfly has a cast of characters from another world, but they are human — well, for at least for the most part. Their world has some parallels to the Hunger Games, with different territories that serve a function to the region as a whole. The people in the kingdom who bear “the mark of the dragonfly” have a tattoo that marks them for special privilege. Piper, the 13-year-old protagonist, is not one of them. She is brilliant with machines, and her story is a scrapper’s tale of a girl who rises above her circumstances to find her true calling. It is a mysterious stranger who bears the mark, and Piper’s quest is to help her find her way home. Despite her age, Piper’s adventures are much more middle grade than YA, which I appreciated for my middle grade kids. My only minor complaint is that sometimes the characters’ voices seemed a little old for their age. I attributed this to their world-weary existence, but it was noticeable, and a little jarring at times.
Beside that minor flaw, I really enjoyed this book. As usual, I don’t want to recount the plot. Rest assured there is plenty to entertain you here — different kingdoms with their varyingly loyal subjects, fantastic creatures both real and imagined, fortune-tellers and seers of all kinds. It’s a world that could be in the future, or maybe it’s a parallel universe. Wherever or whenever it is, it has been perfectly realized in this enchanting book.