The Dust of 100 Dogs – A.S. King (pub 2/1/09)
Emer Morrisey is born Irish in the 1600’s, hardly a good time to be alive and an awful time to be born a girl. After Cromwell kills her family and burns down her town, she becomes a refugee with a surviving aunt and uncle, refusing to speak until she meets a boy her age who also hasn’t been speaking. But true love is given no place to flower, and Emer is sold off to a wealthy Parisian man. She runs away, and by the time she’s stopped running away from men who want to possess her, she’s captain of a pirate ship in the Caribbean. Her trademark is popping out one eye from the men she kills, later embroidering those eyes on the fearsome cloak she wears. She has a good run of it, dying just after she buries her treasure on a deserted island. But as she dies, she’s cursed to live as a dog for 100 lives. After about 300 years of this, she’s born as Saffron Adams, a seemingly normal American girl with a bizarrely sophisticated knowledge of history. She’s willing to share her booty with her slacker family, if only they would get off her back about college long enough for her to find it.
I don’t feel like I’m giving away too much of the story because the book itself opens with a bang, putting all of its cards on the table, daring you not to care about its amazing premise. Though the beautiful cover was enough to get me interested.
I liked this book, though it couldn’t possibly live up to my outsized expectations for it. I had some small problems with its pacing at certain points, and I had been looking forward to more “pirate can’t fit in to normal teenage life” hilarity. But since Saffron had been a girl pirate, it wasn’t that hard for her not to rape or pillage the suburbs. Also…I don’t think this is a YA book. There, I said it. Not that there aren’t teenagers who wouldn’t read and love this book, not that there isn’t a sense of alienation in Saffron that will resonate with teens, but that isn’t a focus of the book at all. From the author interview in the back, it wasn’t written as YA but was sold and marketed that way. Which may be a savvy decision. But I don’t think that in its soul, that is what this is.
I think my husband is planning on reading this book, so it’ll be interesting to get his viewpoint on it. I’d love to discuss it with someone.