Sunday, 10 February 2013

#CBR5 Book 14. "The Dust of 100 Dogs" by A.S. King

Page count: 336 pages
Rating: 3 stars

In the late 17th Century, successful teenage pirate Emer Morrissey has finally been reunited with her long lost love, and is about to leave the pirate life behind forever with two chests full of incredible treasures, when she is slain on a beach, and cursed with the dust of a hundred dogs. Over the next three hundred years, she lives through the lives of one hundred dogs, before coming back as a human, with all her memories of the one hundred and one lifetimes intact.

Remembering everything from Emer's childhood in Cromwell-ravaged Ireland, through her centuries as different dogs, means that Saffron Adams knows a lot more than normal children. Her Vietnam-vet father and alcoholic mother seems to think that Saffron's brains is going to be their ticket out of mediocrity. Little do they realize that Saffron is just waiting for the day she turns eighteen, when she can escape them, go to Jamaica and dig up her hidden treasure.

The Dust of 100 Dogs is an unusual book, with a different narrative structure. The story switches between Saffron's life in 1970s and 80s America, Emer's life in 17th Century Ireland, France and as a successful pirate in the Caribbean, with little interludes into her many different lives as dogs. To begin with, Saffron may seem a bit surly and unpleasant, but the more the reader gets insight into her home life, the more understandable it is that she hates her life, and can't wait to get away. Her parents keep talking about all the great things her smarts are going to bring to the family, but make absolutely no effort to better themselves or their situation. Things go downhill fast once her younger brother becomes a junkie.

Emer's life is not an easy one. Her village is mostly obliterated by Cromwell's forces on her sixth birthday (some party!) and she is taken in by her violent uncle, who sells her to rich Frenchman when she turns fourteen. Not really wanting to be a fat merchant's plaything, Emer runs away, determined to get back to Ireland and the boy she left behind. She doesn't realise that her love has set off in search of her, but ended up on a ship destined for Barbados. After living on the streets of Paris, Emer board a ship for Tortuga, and various circumstances lead to her becoming a pirate.

I liked the historical parts of the book a lot more than the more contemporary ones, mainly because Saffron's life was pretty boring, and she herself was mostly in a holding pattern waiting to go off and have adventures. Emer/Saffron was a cool protagonist, I appreciate what the author did with the structure, and I really like the cover. Think this one is going in the give away pile, as I doubt I'll want to reread it, though, and I have precious little space on my shelves anymore.

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