The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
What this book is about:
Emer, an infamous captain pirate, is watching her one true love Seanie die in the hands of her archenemy. This is the day that Emer is cursed with the dust of 100 dogs right before she herself dies next to the body of her loved one. Now Emer will live 100 lives as a dog before returning in a human form 300 years later, with her memories intact!
I have to admit this was a pleasant surprise of a novel. My first A. S. King book (and her own first published novel) and I was expecting to be disappointed. Even though I enjoy YA literature (when it’s meticulous and well-written and not just a plain old angsty romance story) I had my doubts about both the author and the book’s premise. Why? Because to me the idea of a girl being cursed to 100 lives as a dog before returning to life as a human was way too awesome to be executed and portrayed without lacking too much of anything really!
Humans want to conquer everyone they can, and buy everything they see. I think this is because humans have forgotten how to be happy. It’s not their fault – it’s not easy figuring out how to be happy in these days of anything – but- moderation.
I feel like the first half of the book was very enjoyable. We go back and forth from the 1650s or so to the 1980s, from Emer to Saffron. In between there are some “Dog Facts” stories from Emer’s life as a canine. Our story starts with Emer as a young Irish girl. The story flowed so smoothly and kept my interest at peak during the back and forths from past to present. I was very excited to see where Emer’s story would go and I was also interested to find out what would happen with Saffron. The writing was not overly sophisticated or full of details but it wasn’t lacking in description either. Many YA books leave out descriptions of places, events or situations in favour of more dialogues but in this novel we get a fair amount of paragraphs that create the right ambiance. Moreover, the stories of the two girls did touch me and I felt bad for both of them going through different hardships (together).
Humans don’t trust anything – because that’s their nature. Half of them have gut feelings they continually ignore. It’s not their fault. Instinct rarely fits on the pages of a day planner, and even if it did, human beings would manage to complicate the hell out of it.
But the second half got kind of sloppy. The story was moving too fast – I didn’t understand how we got from point A to point B so quickly – and created a disconnection between me as a reader and the characters. I started getting a little bored. I wasn’t really shocked any more by the events. It was as if someone asked A. S. King to hurry up and finish this book. Furthermore, the parts when Emer/Saffron speaks as a dog were not that good in my opinion. Dogs can teach us so many important lessons about life and still I feel like the author just presented information that everyone knows even if this information consists of misconceptions about dog training. I just think that these parts of the book could have been such a strong asset to the story but were definitely not used to their full potential. I mean, having lived as a dog I would expect to read more important insights coming from Saffron/Emer, rather than plain stereotypes about dog behaviour. Point in case with the following quote:
Your puppy will try anything to get stuff he shouldn’t have. Your job is to restrain from spoiling him. If you allow your dog to sleep in your bed, he will assume that he belongs there, and that’s just plain wrong.
A big part of the novel is magical realism. As far as I know, A. S. King is using magical realism in all of her works. As I said in the beginning, the idea behind the story of this book (the curse of the dust of 100 dogs) was brilliant. So far, I have enjoyed magical realism in a few novels and I will definitely read more books that A. S. King and other authors using magical realism have written. Finally, this novel ended in a circle; we ended up where we started from. This was very interesting since we got to re-experience the same scene twice but this time we had built a relationship with the characters involved.
All in all, this is not your average YA book. It’s about people’s passions (love passion and life passions) and what people will do to chase their dreams to the end. There are some important messages that the reader can extract from the story and the whole story is very interesting and unique. That’s why I believe this book will appeal to readers who don’t specifically enjoy YA, too! It’s an exciting pirate story with a contemporary teenage girl protagonist who has lived as a gray wolf. It does sound intriguing!
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