Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King (4.5/5 stars)

I've been wanting to read this book for a while. It ended up being a very creative and intriguing read; I enjoyed it a lot.

Emer Morrisey was a terrifying pirate in the 1600's who was on a quest for independence and to find her childhood sweetheart. Just when her and her sweetie have reunited and decided to give up pirating for good she is killed and cursed with the Dust of 100 Dogs. She has to live through 100 lives as a dog and then she will finally take human shape again; through it all her memories are intact. Now she has been reborn as Saffron; she is a teenage daughter in a lower income family. Her family thinks Saffron, with her great intellect, will be their ticket out of the poorhouse. What they don't know is that Saffron has unfinished business from her past life as Emer; college and a great job are not part of those plans...going to Jamaica to hunt down buried treasure are.

This book was structured in an interesting way. The chapters alternate between Saffron and Emer. Saffron's chapters are dedicated to her struggles as a teenager trying to get on her quest to Jamaica. Emer's chapters start when she is a young girl and follow her history up to her rise to piracy and, eventually, death. Interspersed between these chapters are short sections of "Dog Facts"; these sections give pointers on how to be/raise a dog based on the extensive experience of many lifetimes. The writing style itself is nothing special; but is very readable and engaging.

I thought this was a very creative book. Emer/Saffron is a very fascinating character and is very engaging. The side characters are not as well developed or engaging as Saffron, but they are all somewhat interesting. The plot was also well done. The switches between Emer and Saffron feel very natural and make the story flow very well. The plot was also very gripping and made the book hard to put down. The main driver is wondering if Saffron will ever find Emer's buried treasure.

I wouldn't necessarily call this a young adult read because it is extremely violent both in sexual and plain old gory ways. Saffron often dreams of torturing the people she deals with daily in very creative and well-explained gory ways. Many of the less pleasant aspects of Emer's live are also detailed. She is raped and tortured, she tortures others. Emer's way of life is just extremely violent and occurs in a difficult time for humanity in general. I don't think the violence is uncalled for or even odd for the time that it takes place in, but it might give more sensitive readers pause.

Overall though it is a read I can recommend. The book is great for both its creativity and the peek it takes into the 1600's. Those who don't tolerate reading about violence, rape, and torture may want to pass on this book though. I will definitely be looking into other books by King.

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