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There is a story I recall many details from, but the title still escapes me. I read a physical school library copy between 2013-2018, in elementary/middle; I live in the USA.

The story starts with a character who lives in a countryside slum, and magic is said to vaguely exist. Occasionally, objects from other worlds fall across the land, and everyone scrambles to find them after the storm ends, hoping to strike it rich. One specific detail is that she, the main character, found a watch once that only she can hear--she sold it twice, but refunded each time, the buyers calling it broken.

When trying to find a friend after the latest storm, she sees another girl lying on the ground. Around the new girl is an apparent scouting party, all also unconscious. When the new girl awakens, she remembers little, except she want to get away from those who she was with. Thus, they high tail it out of there by sneaking onto a train.

Whilst on the train, it is revealed the new girl has a dragon/creature tattoo (the hurdle for me Googling this book), this is a sign of royalty. The train conductor promises to protect her, alongside her assistant who can turn into a flying creature (and whom she saved from slavery). The train carries valuable cargo, subjecting it to attack now and then.

Thus the adventure purses, with the protagonist and the girl traveling on this train to find out who the girl is and why and who exactly is running from. The chase is on as her formers captors pursue her.

Somewhere near the end, she is revealed to be a mechanical girl who was an object from the sky. The man studying her was rather cruel in his methods and is arrested by the king, being the king's advisor. The two girls decide to join the crew of the train, from which their travels may begin.

My memory may not be entirely correct, but I believe this should be sufficient information to identfy the book literally in question.

So, any ideas?

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1 Answer 1

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This is The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson. From Goodreads summary and reviews:

Piper has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields.

The girl doesn't remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she's from the Dragonfly Territories and that she's protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home.

The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect--everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible.

Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

Jaleigh Johnson has written a wonderful adventure about a young female orphan named Piper, whose world consists of scavenging (a scrapper) and fixing broken machines, a special gift. Piper rescues a strange, young girl from a strange caravan during a meteor storm. Anna has a dragonfly tattoo denoting protection of the southern King intent on hegemony. Piper and Anna flee someone supposedly trying to "help" Anna, jumping on an archaic supply train (the 417.) Piper and Anna form a deep sisterlike bond, which revelations about who and what they are cannot break. With the help of a magical boy (Gee), a chameleon who can shape shift, they battle marauders and Anna's benefactor.

Young female protagonist living in a countryside slum, tick. A little bit of magic, tick. Scavengers finding things fallen from the sky, tick. Mysterious girl with a tattoo, tick. Escape on a train, tick. Interesting train conductor character, tick. Shape-shifting character, tick. Powerful king, tick. Antagonist being a former captor of the tattooed girl, tick.

I found this by searching Google for sci-fi novel two girls on a train mechanical tattoo. To avoid false positives from the more famous book about a tattooed girl, I deliberately put "girl" far from "tattoo" in the search terms and didn't include the word "dragon".

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    Thanks a whole bunch, this is the book indeed. Ironic to remember the entire plot, yet forget the title. Mar 5, 2023 at 16:30
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    @RewanDemontay Happy to help! And not so ironic, hundreds of people do. Distinctive plot elements can be much more memorable than titles.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Mar 5, 2023 at 17:07
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    Incidentally, this was also the answer on the SF&F SE at scifi.stackexchange.com/q/271454/23243 :-D Mar 6, 2023 at 13:57
  • @SeanDuggan And only a month ago, too! Seems this book is being remembered again, in more ways than one. Mar 6, 2023 at 21:46

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