The Dust of 100 Dogs
Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.
What can I say about this book? I really do not know how I feel about the book I've just completed, and might not know until I reread it a couple of times in years to come. All I know entirely for sure is that my author-crush on A.S. King has gotten larger, and that I have never in my life encountered a book remotely like The Dust of 100 Dogs.
I've read two other novels by A.S. King, Everybody Sees the Ants and Ask the Passengers. As much as they differed from one another, The Dust of 100 Dogs is even further removed. Her other novels are contemporaries, but this one takes place in the seventeenth century and the 1990s. Her storytelling methods, the mature subject matter, and the settings highlight King's daring as an author.
Her love of history can also be felt in Everybody Sees the Ants, in which the main character's grandfather was a World War II veteran. Here, King goes all the way back to seventeeth century Ireland, in the era of Oliver Cromwell and English subjugation (well, one of many eras of that anyway). She unflinchingly depicts the brutality of the English through the eyes of eight-year-old Emer, who witnesses her mother's brave battle and her brother's death firsthand. Where she was once a weak, whiny creature with dreams of being admired for her beauty, Emer learns from this hard lessons about power and how to live.
Taken in by her abusive Uncle and his family, she loses herself in her grief for a while, retreating into herself and going mute by choice, since there is nothing worth talking about in her new life. This changes when she meets the love of her life, a boy similarly mute, Seanie Carroll. When she takes a stand against her cruel Uncle Martin, he ships her off to France to marry a wealthy, disgusting old man. Emer escapes and begins her wanderings around the world, eventually becoming the captain of a pirate vessel.
That's right! Thar be pirates here! These are the kinds of pirates one cannot help but root for, coming across almost as Robin Hoods, when compared to the slavers and the plundering Spanish. Emer, an honest, upright girl at heart, justifies her actions, her violence, with the knowledge that these colonizers do horrible things to the people whose land they are stealing. The comparisons drawn between the English in Ireland, the Spanish on the Atlantic Isles, and the manifest destiny of the Americans are brilliant.
King focuses on power and on colonization. Her tale is not a happy one. Lovers die, heroines are raped and stalked by the worst of men, and many people are held subjective to the whims of assholes with more will and more power. Even in Emer's modern life (as Saffron), this plays out through the abuses of her brother, a druggie, who steals and destroys everything her parents have, but whom they cannot begin to resist; they are willing victims. Emer, after her childhood experience, never allows anyone to make her into an easy victim; her suffering makes her strong.
The concept and execution completely awe me. King tells the story through shifting perspectives: Emer in third person, Saffron in first person, Fred Livingstone in third person, and notes about dogs. Emer's third person narration, with the exception of the prologue, follows her life chronologically. Saffron, blessed or cursed with Emer's memories still has her own distinct personality. She is a fascinating figure, a child with hundreds of years of memories, both human and hound. Fred may be one of the most creepy characters I have ever encountered, and I do not think I'll be forgetting him any time soon; he's like a rapist stalker combined with Gollum, which is just nightmarish. The notes about life as a dog and how best to raise them are typically King in their oddness. These include sharp insights into human nature, but do occasionally come across as a message from the humane society.
What Left Me Wanting More:
Much as I love the plot of this book and am wowed by King's bravery as an author to venture into such untrespassed lands of YA fiction, I do wish there had been more focus on characterization. My first priority for a book is characters I really connect with, and I did not really find that in Emer or Saffron. I like both of them, worry about both of them, and wish the best for both of them, but they did not capture my heart. With all that King had to accomplish narratively, this is not surprising, because the book would have had to be a good bit longer. If you do not read for character foremost, as I do, then this will likely not be a huge drawback.
The Final Verdict:
If you are looking for a book unlike anything else in YA fiction, you cannot go wrong with A.S. King's The Dust of 100 Dogs. King writes beautifully and does not romanticize anything. Her books are honest and thought-provoking.
Emer Morrisey has not had an easy
childhood. Growing up in poor rural Ireland during the Cromwell invasion, Emer
loses her family at a young age and is forced to live with her cruel uncles
family. Her only friend is Seanie, a neighborhood boy. When her uncle forces
her to marry an old Parisian, Emer escapes to the Caribbean, where she
eventually ends up a successful pirate.
A series of coincidences brings
Emer and Seanie back together again. Just as they plan to retire from piracy
and spend the rest of their lives together, a hated figure from Emers past
tears their plans apart. Emer is cursed to live a hundred lives as a dog before
finally becoming a human again.
Now, in the late twentieth
century, Emer has been reborn as Saffron Adams, a girl from a run-down,
messed-up family in Pennsylvania. And shes really determined to get back to
Jamaica and reclaim the treasure that only she knows is buried there&
THE DUST OF 100 DOGS has a
frightfully original concept that takes a while to get into, but once you do,
look out! You will get caught up in Saffron and Emers story. I particularly
liked reading about Emers life, the chapters of which are interspersed in
between Saffrons story and that of Fred Livingstone, a slightly crazy rich
pervert who lives in a glass mansion in Jamaica. Sound a little random? Well,
yes, but his story is tied in with Saffrons, and I found it remarkable how A.
S. King paralleled Emer and Saffrons adventures, 300 years apart.
While the idea was great, I
couldnt really get into the way it was executed. Saffron fell flat for me,
although this is sadly understandable, since she is more a vessel for Emers
desires. Saffrons family was depressingly run-down and unsympathetic, and the
episodes that occurred during Emers childhood felt too prolonged for me.
Issues such as homosexual urges and rape were brought up in an uncomfortable
and incomplete manner that begged explanation&which we dont get.
Im ambivalent as to how I feel
about THE DUST OF 100 DOGS, but nevertheless it is still a highly original and
adventurous book that many will enjoy.
What I enjoyed about The Dust of 100 Dogs was the fascinating tale of pirates and dogs, of course! I loved the originality and the uniqueness of the plot. I was incredulous by A.S Kings ability to craft such a distinct and entertaining tale.
Another thing I really enjoyed and loved were the Dog Facts. They were hilarious and, being a dog lover, very true at the same time. Plus, it gave me advice on what I should do to train my future dog or dogs. Depending on how many I get. Hahaha.
What I didnt enjoy though was the fact that the plot kept moving from Emer in the late 17th century to Saffron in the 21st century. It basically confused me and I really had to read the chapter titles carefully and follow the plot carefully. If for one second I didnt pay attention, I would be completely lost and would have to go back and reread it to fully comprehend what was going on.
The characters were nicely developed. Both Saffron and Emer were definitely interesting to read about. Personally I enjoyed Emer more I liked her gusty attitude and her hope in finding her true love. It was really romantic but sad at the same time especially the fatal end that they both had.
Reincarnation was a really big theme in this book the Frenchman, the Frenchmans first mate, Emer, Emers true love, etc. Because I didnt realize that reincarnation was a big theme, I didnt realize who Fred was until I read the interview at the really end of the book. It probably would have helped if I had known earlier because I didnt get his part in the book at all until the end.
Overall, The Dust of 100 Dogs definitely wasnt what I had expected but it was still a pretty funny and entertaining read.
Emer Morrisey is a pirate. When she's killed, she's cursed to live the life of a hundred dogs before becoming human again, and with her memories still intact. The book takes us to both lives, one where her family is killed in war and she's separated from the one she loves, the other being her modern life where she's trying to find the treasure she buried as a pirate while simultaneously dealing with her concerned parents and out-of-contol brother.
The Dust of 100 Dogs is a fun novel to read. Both the story of her as a pirate as well as the story Saffron (the modern-day Emer) and her life. It was heavier than some other books I've read, but not so heavy that it becomes work to read it. The story was creative and interesting, the narration was well-done, and I enjoyed the Dog Facts scattered throughout it. I loved The Dust of 100 Dogs, and I would definitely recommend it.
Title: The Dust Of 100 Dogs Author: A.S. King Publisher: Flux Number Of Pages: 336
Summary from back of book: In the late seventeenth century, famed teenage pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping the pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of one hundred dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body- with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica
Review: The Dust Of 100 Dogs is a page turner and even when I needed to get up and do something I found I couldn't put it down. The story is part adventure and part love story. That night as I thought about it I loved it more and more. An amazing book!
I recommend this book if you like pirates, romance, dogs facts, and young adult novels.
Emer Morrisey, named after a female hero from an Irish tale, has almost lived up to her namesake. But history and circumstance has separated her from her one true love and eventually forced her into a life of piracy. Years later, this young and independent woman is ready to renounce her pirating ways, keeping only a small portion of her stolen riches, to be with her long lost love. Tragically, they are bother killed, and Emer is cursed with the dust of one hundred dogs, forcing her to endure one hundred lifetimes as a canine. Three hundred years later, shes an American teenager named Saffron Adams, and she remembers everything. Now all she needs is a shovel and a way to Jamaica.
In all honesty, The Dust of 100 Dogs can be summed up on one word: spectacular. I am not kidding when I say this novel blew my mind. There are several other tales of female pirates, such as To Catch a Pirate, but The Dust of 100 Dogs outshines them by far, and for several reasons. The plot is a unique and compelling fusion of seventeenth-century swashbuckling danger and romance, contemporary teen issues, and dog humor. All parts were written exceptionally well, and its difficult to say which I preferred because they were all so interesting. Emer/Saffron was such an original character; in all her lives, no matter how young, she always seemed so determined and mature. I really liked how she could keep her head amidst all the circumstances she encountered. I also enjoyed trying to equate the characters from the contemporary portion of this story with their seventeenth-century counterparts, if any. Kings writing is so powerful that at times, I felt I was in the story alongside Emer or Saffron; she succeeded in creating a romantic and unforgettable tale of everlasting love with magic and mystery. The Dust of 100 Dogs is sure to be a favorite as soon as it hits shelves among all readers, because this is a story that spans age and time.
I dont think it would be fair to compare The Dust of 100 Dogs to books like To Catch a Pirate by Jade Parker and Reincarnation by Suzanne Weyn, even though it was a sort of combination of those two, because this story is nearly infinitely better. The Dust of 100 Dogs has earned a high spot on my favorites list and King is an author to watch.
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