Caught in the Whirlpool!

The Coming of the Whirlpool (Ship Kings #1)The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this YA novel way more than I expected to. Even with Andrew McGahan’s reputation I was skeptical about going the distance with this one. Luckily, all my initial expectations were well and truly changed.
This is an assured and well-written story, with a young, brave and driven protagnoist in Dow Amber. Dow grows up on New Island in the logging community of Yellow Bank, ready to follow in his fathers footsteps and become an axeman, as is expected of him.
At the age of eleven, he becomes a man in the eyes of his village and he sets off into the forests with his father and a group of axemen to learn his trade. One day his father takes him through the forest to the edge of a cliff and Dow spies the ocean for the first time. He is completely captivated. Feelings stir in him and he feels more and more drawn to life at sea, flouting all the traditions of his society, he seeks to become a sailor. Following the revelation of a secret from Dow’s past, he resolves to leave and sets out for the port of Stromner.
Much of the novel concerns itself with Dow’s journey to the port, and his subsequent arrival and settling in at Stromner. As is my custom I will not be posting spoilers here, but I WILL say that Dow has to show the strongest of resolve and a great deal of courage to even get close to his first goal – becoming part of a ship’s crew.
Along the way he meets many characters including the mysterious Nell, a ship’s scapegoat; Mother Gale, the village wisewoman; and Nathaniel, a bitter old sea-dog who has lost the will to live.
This can be hard going at times – there is a lot of talking between the great action scenes, but never does the talking feel superfluous. Every word is there to take you further into Dow’s world and make him more interesting.
I can’t wait to read The Unquiet Ice when I am back in my library!
Recommended for 12yo and up.

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