Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Dust of 100 Dogs by AS King


In the late 17th century, famed pirate Emer Morrisey was on the cusp of escaping pirate life with her one true love and unfathomable riches when she was slain and cursed with the dust of 100 dogs, dooming her to one hundred lives as a dog before returning to a human body—with her memories intact. Now she's a contemporary American teenager, and all she needs is a shovel and a ride to Jamaica.

I cannot urge you enough to go out and buy this book - online or at Foyles in London, Charing Cross Road. Published in the States by the small but perfectly shaped publisher Flux, I don't think The Dust of 100 Dogs have come to the UK as yet. Which is a realy pity as it has to be one of my best reads of the year thus far.

I mean, really - look at the bit of blurb above. How insanely cool and random is that? And you know what, AS King makes it work. As I said to someone on Twitter earlier this morning: pirates, treasure, high seas adventure, action, adventure, Cromwell, capes, pirate flags, curses ... how utterly I've-got-to-read-that!

And before you think it's some kind of rip-of of Pirates of the Caribbean, stop right there. This is unlike anything you've ever, ever, read and the better for it.

The Dust of 100 Dogs is told by Saffron in the 1980's, alternating with chapters with Emer in the 1600's. There are also chapters from Emer / Saffron as a dog, during her long life as the cursed pirate. Emer's story is one of hardship, growing up an orphan after her parents are killed during an attack by Cromwell's army in Ireland. Living with her uncle and his family she becomes mute, refusing to talk. Whatever she does, her uncle beats her. She lives her life quietly, caged, waiting for something, anything to happen. Then she meets Sean, a boy the same age as her, who is a mute. They form a bond, a deep lasting friendship in their quiet solitude. And it turns out, like her, Sean's not to keen a talker. They fall in love, but it's not destined to be. Her uncle sells her off to a rich man and sends her to Paris. Sean is devastated but follows. Their lives are split apart and Emer finds herself destitute in Paris, and Sean's lured onto a boat that's going elsewhere, and not Paris.

It's insane - a sad story, told with great empathy. It's matter of factness is what makes these scenes with Emer very vivid and heartstoppingly sad.

Saffron's life in "modern" times is no better - too clever for her own good, after living one hundred lives as a dog, she quickly draws attention to herself. Her parents rely on her to be some kind of genius, to study, to get good grades, to go to college, maybe become a doctor. All that Saffron wants to do is go to Jamaica and dig up the treasure she buried there and to get away, for real, from these people who are supposed to be her parents, away from a younger brother who is a drug addict and away from the life they want her to live.

I was blown away by how much I believed Emer and Saffron's voices. Both characters were the same, yet different. Driven, determined, enigmatic - these are two girls who life has knocked around so badly - manage to stand up again and again and follow their dreams - wow. Just wow. How bad can positive rolemodels be for a person, right? Oh fair enough, Emer through Saffron in modern day dreams of killing and gouging out people's eyes for angering her. But more than anything, it's a coping mechanism, for Saffron to deal with a life that is less than ideal.

It's very well written. I love coming across an author with such a strong voice who can write really well, who you can read and appreciate for her sheer storytelling prowess. You can sense the hard work that's gone into making The Dust of 100 Dogs. The research and the rewrites and the general quirkiness of the author coming up with this truly unique idea. It's clever and fun and I wish I had money to make sure copies of this goes out to all my subscribers here at MFB.

It's dark, it's beautiful and sad and sweet but most of all, it's bloody good.

Gah! Ignore all of the above and just go buy the gorram book already!

Check out the website that accompanies the book. And this is the author's website.


Rachel Green said...

this looks to be great fun. Thank you.

Lenore Appelhans said...

As I told you on twitter, this is one of my fave books! Love it!

Unknown said...

Heard some really great things about this one, when it was doing the rounds last year(?).

I could be seriously tempted by it!

Peta said...

Looks fabulous and added to the list!

Dot said...

This sounds so different but in a very good way! I am off to look at the website!