The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
Paperback, First Edition
Saffron Adams in the reincarnation of a seventeenth century pirate, Emer Morrisey. Set out on the seas to find her one true love, Emer is caught up in a dangerous love triangle that leads to the death of all three players and is ultimately cursed with the dust of one hundred dogs, causing her to go through one hundred lives as a dog before returning to the human species. Now, Saffron, a teenager in the end of the twentieth century, is leaving her dysfunctional family to return to Jamaica to get back what was once lost…
The Dust of 100 Dogs was by far one of the most interesting books I've read in a long time. I had been expecting this book to be good, from reading some reviews, but it was better. Something just clicked. On my library copy of the book (I'm definitely going out and buying this when I have a chance) there is the Fantasy sticker on the side. But honestly, I couldn't just put this in one category, so I left the genres section of my review out.
But for a review:
I didn't mention in my summary, but this book actual has three stories intertwined into one. Emer's story, from her life in Ireland as a child where she meets her love, to being sent to England, and then her life as a pirate (which is actually the opening scene for the book); Saffron's story, which gives you a background on her home life and her travel to Jamaica; and Fred Livingstone's life in Jamaica. While often times having so many perspectives can be confusing, in The Dust of 100 Dogs, it simply wasn't. The latter character, Fred, may seem unimportant at first, but in a way, his role is quite similar to Saffron's. There are also mini chapters entitled Dog Facts, which are narrated by Emer/Saffron about dog life and their philosophy, which not only relates to the story, but to our own lives.
One of the most important themes in the book was reincarnations. Now, on a personal level, I love the idea of being reincarnated, of living life long after death. It seems like a way to explore all the options life gave you but you didn't take on your original life's journey. What I found interesting about all the reincarnations in the book (and yes, there are more than just Emer and Saffron) is how their personalities still differentiated. Saffron is but is also not Emer. While in Jamaica, she often says she "feels like Emer," when she gets violent. Feels would be the key word. There is another character that is different from his "kin" because of the choice he makes at the very end of the book, but I didn't notice until later. It goes back to what I said before, about choosing differently than what you did before.
I also liked the different types of relationships expressed. There are the abusive in Emer's case, but also the whole love-at-first-sight scenario. In Fred's story, it is all about not admitting to yourself what you want. Saffron's is less about a love relationship and more about the one she has with her parents, who won't support her choices in life. And again, I thought A. S. King was really able to make it relatable to lives today.
Now, I know I haven't really talked about characters and voicing and such, which I typically jump right into. Really, it was all amazing. There was Emer, who I thought was such a badass, Fred, who I wanted to beat the living daylights out of, and Saffron, who I hoped would succeed and also punch the living daylights out of Fred. My only complaint was that -- especially in Emer's case -- the reader has to play catch-up because parts are left out. At times it made me feel like I had skipped a chapter and would go back to check. But honestly, once it had happened a few times I got used to it.
The Dust of 100 Dogs was extremely well written. As I read, I felt like I was there or the characters were in my room along with me. It was all very visual, which is unusual because I rarely see the scenes in my head, despite how good an author's writing is (this may come from my lack of any artistic capabilities whatsoever).
The story closes with Saffron and I was left quite pleased. Sometimes, really good books have really bad endings. They just don't mesh. But this one did and it completely tied up all the themes. There are a few things for the reader to decide, like what happened to Saffron's family and where will she go, but the key points of the story have been solved and there's a cute surprise at the end.
Normally, I would say "I recommended this if you like…" but, as I said above, there really isn't any other story out there like this to compare it to. Even if it should be considered a Young Adult book is debatable, because while Saffron is a teenager, the mind inside her is much, much older and wiser (something like three hundred years). So, my recommendation is to simply read the book. I can't guarantee you'll love it, or even like it, but you should definitely try it.