The Dust of 100 Dogs

A. S. King, Author . Flux $9.95 (330p) ISBN 978-0-7387-1426-4

Seventeenth-century pirate Emer Morrisey, murdered and cursed to live the lives of 100 dogs, finally rematerializes as Saffron Adams, 1980s teenager, in King's far-reaching but uneven debut. Cognizant of her past lives, Saffron's sole ambition is to unearth a treasure buried in Jamaica, even as her oblivious parents urge her toward conventional success. Chapters alternate between Saffron's struggles to conceal her swashbuckling instincts and Emer's falling for a lackluster country boy—then escaping an arranged marriage—while en route to the high seas. Emer's dog incarnations appear in short chapters entitled “Dog Facts,” which, though charming, feel superimposed; additional sections are devoted to an aggressive alcoholic living in modern Jamaica. The litany of narratives leaves authentic characters like Saffron's emotionally crippled mother vying for page time, and Saffron's (Emer-inspired) hostility—“Why was she forcing me to take a cutlass to the ligaments at the back of her knees?” thinks Saffron, imagining taking down her mother—feel like intrusion on otherwise poignant glimpses of an unraveling family. Readers will want to love this book, but may not find enough to sink their teeth into. Ages 14–up. (Feb. )

Reviewed on: 02/16/2009
Release date: 02/01/2009
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