When you get inside the head of Saffron Adams, you’re not hearing just the thoughts of a teenage girl from Hollow Ford, Pennsylvania. There’s also Emer Morrisey, a bloodthirsty seventeenth century pirate. Oh, and 100 dead dogs. Yep, it’s a busy place. But the perspectives in this novel don’t end there! We get to hear from a few people (and dogs) who aren’t prior incarnations of Saffron Adams, as well. And one of those people isn’t nearly as nice as Emer Morrisey, the vicious pirate who enjoys popping out the eyeballs of her victims.
A.S. King weaves together the stories of Emer Morrisey, whose horrifying life leads her down a path of looting and piracy; Saffron Adams, a regular girl who has all the memories (and some of the very bloody impulses) of that seventeenth-century pirate girl; and Fred Livingstone, a truly unpleasant man whose life is somehow interconnected with Emer’s and Saffron’s. As we learn about Emer’s very dark life and the childhood love that drove her, we also watch Saffron break away from her own fairly normal life as she pursues the treasure Emer left behind centuries ago. Both stories are compelling, mainly because of the wonderful backstory and deep drive that come from Emer’s history. I loved seeing the ways in which Emer’s past influenced Saffron’s smalltown Pennsylvania life.
King’s plotting is really well-done – the different storylines twist in and out of each other very pleasingly, and they all build towards a satisfying climax that finally brings the two main stories together. As I was reading, I found myself very curious about A.S. King’s process as she wrote this complex narrative. It’s a lot of balls to keep bouncing in the air, and she handles it with aplomb, keeping all the stories moving at a quick pace and dropping little hints to the reader about how they might connect together. And the writing is as sharp and slightly twisted as Emer Morrisey herself.
One of my favorite parts of the novel were the short “dog facts” that are placed in between chapters, where Saffron shares some of the lessons she’s learned in her many past lives as dogs. There’s some good advice for any dog-owner hidden inside this page-turning story – just one more reason to go pick up a copy!
The Dust of 100 Dogs on the web.
A.S. King on the web.