The Dust of 100 Dogs by A.S. King
In the 1600s, teenager Emer Morrisey has already seen more than most have in a lifetime, which isn't a surprise since she's become one of the most successful and feared of pirates. But a hard life grows harder when on a beach in Jamaica, just after having buried her treasure so she can return to it later, the love of her life is killed and Emer is cursed to live 100 lives as a dog before she can be human again. Three hundred years later, she's reborn as Saffron Adams, her memories from all her lives completely intact, and with one goal in mind: get back to that beach and reclaim what's hers.
Awesome premise, right? In her debut novel, A.S. King set the bar high and leads readers into the fantastic world of magical realism. It's a story telling trope that isn't so commonly used, but when King utilizes it, it blows me away time after time.
The story has not one but two protagonists in Saffron and Emer - they are two very different girls, but Saffron is in a unique situation in that while she holds all of Emer's memories, she's not exactly Emer. Reincarnation is a tricky business, after all. They each have different goals and personalities, but are undeniably linked. The novel goes back and forth between each girl's story, building up to how each of them have lives leading to a Jamaican beach. Portions of the text are also dedicated to Fred Livingstone, the reincarnation of the Frenchman who cursed Emer and killed her love all those centuries ago.
All in all, I really liked the book. It's a fun premise, Emer and Saffron are both incredibly well rounded and deep characters, and there's light shone on parts of history that I never really thought about before (such as Cromwell's invasion of Ireland). As usual, King is never afraid of taking on the things that others may deem too gritty or unpleasant for readers to want to explore, and I admire that. She is a rockstar, standout author in my mind because she never underestimates her audience - in fact, she challenges them to rise up. If I'm honest, though, I wasn't in love with this story the way that Please Ignore Vera Dietz completely consumed me. I enjoyed it, I'm glad to have read it, but some books just take a tighter hold of you than others, I suppose.
If you want to dive into the world of magical realism, pirates, strong girls, and stories that refuse to paint the world in black and white, then I highly recommend giving The Dust of 100 Dogs a read.
Comments welcome, and, as always, happy reading!
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