The Dust of 100 Dogs
What do a pirate, 100 dogs, and a 1970s teenager have in common? They all have the same existences in A.S. King’s The Dust of 100 Dogs. Emer, a pirate from Ireland in the 1600s, upset the wrong vengeful enemy, who killed her just as she was about to escape with her love and her treasure. Upon her death, she was cursed to a purgatory of living life as 100 dogs before she could be human again. After this penance, she emerges as Saffron, an angsty teen with a blood-thirsty pirate residing inside her, literally. The story is told from Emer and Saffron’s perspectives, as well as that of an older gentleman, Fred Livingstone, and the narratives intertwine as the novel comes to a close. In part, King succeeds with the imaginative plot, and there is quite a bit going on within this shortish young-adult novel (if it maintains this title with its graphic and dark matter). However, the amount going on might distract the reader from how each plot strand is not fully developed and often not sufficiently engaging to the reader. The dog lives, which sounded the most interesting to me, were all but ignored, surfacing in little factoids. In a way, I wish King had spent more time on the dogs or at least the effect the dogs had on the life of Saffron. While the plot has so much potential, the enormity of the elements could not be fleshed out in the time given during the novel. I was left wondering how Saffron wasn’t a little crazier, just because of a sheer number of memories and snippets in her head. All in all, the novel is dark, quick, and too abstract, but the plot lends itself to enough intrigue to finish the book.