Monday, January 17, 2011

[Review] The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King

Title: The Dust of 100 Dogs
Author: A.S. King
Publication: 2009
Publisher: Flux
Source: Bought
Age: 17+, heavy sexual scenes, language and violence (animal abuse included).
Pages: 320
My Rating:

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.
My thoughts: 

King threw me on a wild ride with The Dust of 100 Dogs--her debut novel is insane, original, palpable, and full of disaster and excitement and adventure and is just one of those books that needs to be read. King is such a highly regarded author, with her recent novel, Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and after reading her debut, it's easy to see why.

The Dust of 100 Dogs follows the story of Emer Morrisey's trials and tribulations in life, and what happens after her death. Just before her last dying breaths, she is cursed to live out the life of a hundred dogs. At the end of what could only be seen as a mad rush, Emer is reborn as a human--Saffron Adams. At her core, she is still Emer, and she wants what is hers, what she lost 300 hundred years ago along the shores of Jamaica, lying underneath the dust of 100 dogs. It was extremely difficult to pin-point exactly how I should summarise the novel without spoiling anything important.

The story was intricately woven, told in a form of dual perspective, both clever and original. At first, I was a bit confused and kept frantically trying to remember all the characters and events that happen, and at first, the novel felt very jumpy. Every few chapters, Emer/Saffron divulges in a doggy moral attached with personal story during one of her lives as a dog. This felt a bit irrelevent to the novel as a whole, but allowed some form of believability to the protagonist's living out those dog lives. The novel seems extremely simple, but when I finished those last pages, I realised WHY King set everything out the way she did. And it works.

Although I said that this is a book that people should try, I also feel the need to warn people: this book is not for the faint-hearted. There are strong sexual scenes, several of them involving rape. Swear words abound. Violence, really graphic descriptions that really protrude in the deep recesses of my mind, even after I've finished the last page. Perhaps all of this (except for the sexual scenes--those I could have gone without, Amy!) only helped to encourage what would be the troubled loving feeling I hold towards this book now.

The characters . . . seriously, there are WAY too many characters to think of. I'll discuss the most plot-centric figures. Emer begins as a meek and shy girl from Ireland, who has to endure the pain of losing her friends and family at the hands of war. She ends up a pirate: strong, determined, fearless, abbrasive and proud. My opinion of her is mixed, but she was admirable in many ways. Saffron is smart, calculative and struggles with dealing with her home life. She leaves to seek what she left behind in her last life as a human (Emer). Saffron is essentially Emer, but with reincarnation, while her memories are kept intact, Saffron has assumed a unique personality separate to Emer's. She seemed more like a narrator than the protagonist to me.

I feel that if I discuss this book too deeply, I may spoil the whole thing. So, I guess I'll just say that the characters were complex and realistic. Although not likeable at all times.

I think the deciding factor for me is the fact that this novel is so well thought out that everything falls together in the end--even with all its ambiguities and mysteries that remain unsolved in the end. I really enjoyed the reincarnation elements to the story. All in all, The Dust of 100 Dogs is a solid debut that seems to stretch out the YA genre in its originality and complexities.  

Recommended for mature (17+) readers.



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I have received this review copy in return for an honest review.

Challenge: YA Historical Challenge 2011

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