The first words that come to mind when reading this novel are quick, engaging and ultimately satisfying. The reader is immediately immersed in Piper and Anna’s journey of discovery, and though a perceptive reader might be able to deduce the hidden secrets interspersed throughout the text, knowing them beforehand does not detract from the reader’s enjoyment of the book given the nature of the story. In fact, I thought it rather fun having my suspicions confirmed, and I believe that many young readers would share that same sentiment.
The Mark of the Dragonfly is a book heavily focused on plot, which makes the story progress at a busy, energetic pace that keeps the reader’s interest despite the book’s length. Because of this, even though Johnson’s story is about 400 pages, it could easily be read in one sitting. However, because of the book’s focus on plot, there is not as much background development as one might expect for a fantasy tale. Though the reader gains some basic background knowledge of the kingdoms and their territories, as well as a general understanding of the population and the kinds of human-other species interactions that happen to exist in this fantasy world, I personally would have liked to learn more about these elements. For example, what are the origins of those special gifts? What were some of the gifts described in the fairytales that were briefly mentioned…did these gifts focus solely on natural elements or could they have also represented other potential talent abilities? Do interspecies relationships exist and are they really possible, given the story’s discussion about the difficulties of treating some of these cohabitating species using human medicines? When depicting such elements generally, it can be somewhat difficult to really apply them on a personal level in regards to how they relate to the characters. As such, older readers might find these missing elements somewhat of a disappointment in their reading of this book. However, such questions are not typical for the average middle grade reader, and because of this, I don’t think the reader is really meant to think beyond the basic outline of the story. And given how the story’s written, it can be easy to gloss over these elements, allowing the reader to focus on the characters and their progression through the story.
Overall despite its flaws, I found Johnson’s novel an entertaining read. The combined elements of adventure, action and drama, with the added benefits of camaraderie and little romance would easily appeal to many young readers.