I really thought that The Dust of a 100 Dogs had a really fun concept that I would enjoy, but nearly the whole thing didn’t work for me. The characters are woefully one dimensional. The good characters are too good, the evil characters too evil, the conflicts too easily begun and resolved, and the reincarnation portrayed poorly. At the beginning of the novel, Saffron’s thoughts and actions are nearly entirely Emer’s. If they are not the same person, then Saffron is utterly controlled by Emer, driven by Emer’s desire to have back the treasure denied to her and filled with Emer’s violent pirate thoughts. By the end of the book, however, it was like King made a last-minute decision that Saffron ought to have a voice too, but it was too little too late to be anything short of a tack on.
Flashbacks to Emer’s early life in an Ireland being destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s armies are the best and most compelling part of this book, perhaps because it’s the only part that feels genuine. Once Emer flees the husband her uncle has sold her to in the aftermath of the war, Emer, desperate, decides she’ll board a ship bound for the Caribbean, where other men are looking for wives or worse. This is where things fell apart for me. For one, if you ran away from a lousy, rotten husband to be impoverished on the streets of Paris, why would you think you’d make out any better rolling the dice on a mystery husband in the Caribbean? For two, I just never really managed to buy Emer as a proper pirate. She kind of dithers her way into the whole thing after fleeing the next d-bag husband in line, and using her pent-up loathing for all the men who took what wasn’t theirs in a battle. All the sudden, she’s a sea captain with pirate fleet robbing Spanish treasure ships. There doesn’t seem to be any real reason for it other than she doesn’t want to get married to a French d-bag and she need something to do while she moons over the lost love her of her Irish youth that she hopes against hope to meet again. She’s supposed to be this feared killer, but it all seems to be a bit of an act, and a poor one.
Maybe I’m expecting too much. This is, after all, a swashbuckling YA tale of reincarnation and piracy. I’m probably not supposed to read so much into it. I’m supposed to appreciate Emer as a strong female character and enjoy her adventures at sea. However, despite her murderous abilities, she somehow never stopped seeming like victim to me, and The Dust of a 100 Dogs, with its many lifetimes’ worth of stories to tell never came together into the more multi-dimensional story I was hoping for.