by Jaleigh Johnson
First sentence: “Micah brought the music box to her on the night of the meteor storm.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy handed to me by one of my bosses, who told me to “get on it”.
Content: There’s some violence (none of it fatal), and a bit of an innocent crush. But no language. The reading level is probably a confident 3rd grader/4th grade level. It’s happily in the middle grade (3-5th grade) section at the bookstore.
Piper is a scrapper. She lives in a scrap town at the edge of the Meteor Fields, and runs out after storms, looking for salvageable items — things that have come through from other worlds to hers — in order to sell for pennies. She wants more from her life, especially after her father’s death in the Dragonfly Terrritories’ factories, but she doesn’t quite know where to start.
Then, after a particularly violent meteor storm in which her best friend, Micah, is seriously injured, Piper finds a girl. She’s not-quite-dead and bears the Mark of the Dragonfly, which means she’s protected by the king. Piper revives her, and when a sinister man (whom the girl, Anna, calls “the wolf”) comes looking for the girl, she and Piper escape. Only to find themselves on the 401, the main train connecting the northern Marrow kingdom with the southern Dragonfly one.
Once on the train, though, Piper’s and Anna’s problems don’t go away. They meet a whole host of characters and are being chased by slavers and raiders (and the wolf) on their quest to figure out who Anna is, and what Piper’s budding powers can do.
I know I didn’t do the book summary justice. I’m not sure, however, if anyone can. There’s a lot going on in this book. It does have things going for it: Piper is a complex heroine, stubborn and intelligent, a combination of drive and pluck that made her very likable. My only complaint is that Johnson chose to introduce a romance element (however slight) with a boy. I felt it was unnecessary to the whole story, and it didn’t add anything. However, I thought the relationship between Piper and Anna was incredibly well-written. It became a sisterly bond and one that was very realistic and interesting. And the world — from the objects falling from the sky, to the cool train — was fascinating. The book did feel incomplete — is it the first of a series? — and there were many threads left hanging, but it was a good, solid contribution to middle grade fantasy.