Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Book Review: The Dust of 100 Dogs by A. S. King
Oh, I do enjoy a good pirate yarn, I do. Give me a fast ship, high reckless seas, a fine sharp sword, and I shall be lost to the telling of the tale. In A. S. King's debut young adult novel, The Dust of 100 Dogs, not only was I lost to the tale, but I was loving it all the crazy way to the end.
As our story opens, we meet a fierce young woman, Emer Morrisey, an Irish lass fighting desperately for her life, the life of her lover, and for her enemy's ultimate doom. She has buried a treasure in the sands of the surrounding beach, and hopes against hope that none have witnessed the deed. It is then, in a cruel turn of fortune, that Ener receives a terrible surprise: the "businesmarlinespike marlinspike, and the curse of the dust from 100 dogs. In that moment, Emer begins the unfathomable ordeal of living the literal lives of 100 dogs, human memories entirely intact.
Fast forward 300 years. One hundred dog lives have been lived, and Saffron Adams (formerly Emer Morrisey) is born. All memories from all former lives (canine and otherwise) still remain intact. She impresses teachers with her knowledge of history. Gives her mother, a chronic melancholic imbiber, hope for the family's future, and generally dreams of the day when she will be free to go off on her own and search for her long ago buried treasure.
King, in possession of an excellent gift for compelling storytelling, interweaves the lives of the two girls with meticulous richness. Emer, we learn, is only a small child when Oliver Cromwell invades her village in 17th century Ireland. Her firsthand accounts of the madness and fright of war are unnerving, as is herlife with a cruel uncle (a curious survivor of her village's crushing slaughter), and her eventual path into pirating. Saffron, no less fascinating, sees all the world - including her family - through the ultra-experienced eyes of a soul gone too long without. Some of the most comedic moments come as Saffron imagines how her past pirate-self would have handled a situation (something that usually involves eye gouging, her pirate trademark.) And sprinkled throughout the tale are "Dog Facts", things that Saffron has learned about herself and humankind during her 100 lifetimes as an acutal dog.
The Dust of 100 Dogs is an absolute page-turner; my only disappointment was in reaching the end of an excellent pirate's yarn.