The Dust of 100 Dogs - A. S. King
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always check the published reviews of a book before buying it or checking it out of the library. Oh, sure, I’ll briefly scan the reviews at “the River,” but I know better than to trust most of those people, anyway. Perhaps had I should have looked more closely at Barnes & Noble’s page for The Dust of 100 Dogs (by A. S. King), though. Instead of glowing reviews from the NYT or even "People," there are blurbs from The Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star and "VOYA" (not the financial company – “Voice of Youth America” magazine). The best the site can come up with is the throwaway line from "Booklist," which calls it “An undeniably original book.” When you come right down to it, though, that description might very well have been followed by “that is unfortunately almost unreadable.”
No, that’s probably not fair: the book is readable and, for that matter, seems pretty much original. My problem with it is more that it’s dreck… and here’s why:
In the middle of the 17th century, Irish lass Emer avoids Oliver Cromwell’s scourge only to be sold to a rich Parisian as an aging dandy’s wife. She escapes that fate only to be shipped to the West Indies as… well, probably not a wife. Instead of becoming a “sporting lady,” Emer instead reinvents herself as a fearsome pirate. Until, that is, she falls victim to a voodoo spell cast by the minion of her arch-enemy The Frenchman: she is destined to live a hundred lives as a dog before she is once again born in human form.
And that’s how young Saffron Adams, 20th-century Pennsylvanian, remembers where the dread Emer’s booty is buried. Oh, and she manages to remember each of those 100 lives as a dog, which means she is far too smart for her own good.
|Upon coming of age, Saffron/Emer returns to the remote bay in Jamaica where she buried her treasure, only to find it occupied by a modern-day version of The Frenchman (and his minion). What happens after that is… predictable.
Right up front, let’s get this out of the way: The Dust of 100 Dogs is sold as YA fare, but only if you want the local chapter of Book Burners United beating down the door. There are sex scenes, rape scenes, and plenty of gore – Emer’s “signature” is to pop an eyeball out of her victim with her cutlass. Don’t like “dirty” words? It has plenty of the f-, s-, and a-words. Drugs? Got ‘em. Disrespect for adults? Got it. Drinking? Got it. About the only thing that’s missing is masturbation.
As for the 100 lives spent as a dog? Saffron supposedly remembers them all, though she seems to have gone through them as a sort of canine version of Forrest Gump, showing up in interesting places time after time. Perhaps that’s why elementary-school Saffron is so well-read in history and geography, though that would presuppose that during her lives as dogs she was paying more attention to what was going on than any of my dogs ever have.
No, I'm not buying it… and I'm not giving it five stars, either. But two stars? That’ll do.
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