I haven’t been so wonderfully surprised by the originality of a book in a long time as I was when I finished The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King. I devoured it recently on vacation in Florida (a perfect setting, by the way, for reading a tale that involves pirates!).
The book tells the tale of Emer Morrisey, who is also Saffron Adams, and has also lived the lives of 100 dogs over the past three centuries. Huh? You say. Trust me, it’s brilliant, and to explain too much would give away said brilliance.
Basically, know this:
The story is told in the far past, the mid to late 1600s specifically as Cromwell commits atrocities upon the Irish and Emer Morrisey is growing up and becoming a young woman, and the late 20th Century, when Saffron Adams is a teenager. After being cursed to live 100 lives as a dog, Emer is reborn as Saffron, with full memory of her first human life, as well as all of the dog lives she has lived in between her two human incarnations. Interspersed between Saffron and Emer’s chapters are “Dog Facts” which are often hilarious, but also shed interesting light on Emer/Saffron and mankind in general.
Emer and Saffron, while the same person, are delightfully different, living in decidedly different periods of time, and have their own distinct views of their respective worlds. Saffron is at once haunted, yet also driven, by her memory of her life as Emer, including the hardships of Cromwellian Ireland, love found and lost, the injustices thrust upon her, and her life as a pirate (the latter providing much hilarity as Emer wishes Saffron to disembowl, or worse, anyone who annoys her). And while Emer experienced much adversity in the past, Saffron experiences her own in the contemporary setting, from overbearing loser parents, an even more loser drug-addicted brother, and the painful realities of current teen life, all of which come across just as difficult as starvation in Connacht after the British kill your family.
Combined with A.S. King’s amazing storytelling, history, and fantastic characters, are pirates, adventure, lost love, mystery, pathos, and humor, and ultimately, a completely satisfying conclusion.
I feel like this review does not do The Dust of 100 Dogs justice, so go read it yourself. Also, attention librarians and such out there: this book should see some awards for young adult literature, please!
Other links: A.S. King’s blog.
Also, I must say, it has one of the best book covers ever.