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The Coming of the Whirlpool

(Ship Kings #1)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  277 ratings  ·  55 reviews
From the award-winning author of Praise and The White Earth comes a magnificent young adult series about destiny and desire, set in a brilliantly realised fantasy world.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Allen & Unwin (first published 2011)
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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  277 ratings  ·  55 reviews

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Sep 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
what a fantastic adventure!! Part Hobbit, part Pirates of the Caribbean, part Horatio Hornblower, the first book in Andrew McGahan's Ship Kings series is wonderful. Clever writing, fabulous plot and fresh characters make this an outstanding read for just about anyone
Stacey Kym
Jun 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016-reviews
This is my second reread of 'The Coming of the Whirlpool' and it literally couldn't get any better EVERY SINGLE TIME. I love everything about this book: the characters, and the brave soul that is Dow Amber; the setting which ranges from the headland forests and pines to the bays and seas of New Island; the atmosphere, so strong, thrilling, powerful and present; the writing and the author's exceptionally correct yet unforgettable style! I feel this AWE every single time I open this novel and a ...more
Michael Leon
Dec 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
McGahan's 'genre hopping' writing is not, in his view, deliberate, rather based on his "vague collection of interests at the time, followed by a crystalising moment where the novel takes shape" - more a feeling about the story than an actual plot. For example, his brilliant novel - Wonders of a Godless World - was triggered by a re-reading of Russell Hoban's 'Ridley Walker', inspiring him to create a world with its own logic and language. 'Ship Kings' too has its origins in other books, written ...more
Nov 26, 2011 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this novel more than I actually did. Just a little underwhelmed. Dow Amber lives in a timber town in the middle of the island kingdom of New Island. He escapes his intended future as a timber getter when his love of the sea becomes apparent to his parents and the townsfolk. They agree that he may leave the town to become an apprentice fisherman on the coast, when his mother divulges a secret from her family's past - that Dow's ancestor was a famous Admiral who was executed after ...more
Clare Cannon
Apr 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: 08-12yrs, 13-15yrs
A boy's sea adventure, only for the first 3/4 of the book he doesn't yet make it to the sea. Dow Amber is a heroic young adventurer who is brave in the face of difficulties and injustice, but this entire book reads like an introduction: we see him set up for his adventure but he hasn't truly begun it yet.

This book may appeal to avid readers who can persevere with the extensive description of the protagonist's thoughts; there is so much pondering of 'what if' that even in 300 pages there is not
Brona's Books
Feb 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Even though this book is classified as fantasy, I would call it a coming of age story with lots of boats and marine metaphors.
The fantasy is very light. We have a made up world - New Island -complete with maps (I love a good map!) and descriptive names like The Claw and The Rip. But we have no fantastical creatures (so far) or magical powers to contend with.

Dow Amber is the young man in question. Born into a wood cutters family high up in the mountains. As the eldest son he is destined to
Ian Tymms
Great fantasy story. Particularly enjoyed the description of "the rip" which sounds very familiar to Port Philip Bay which I'm guessing partly inspired it. Having watched ships struggling through on an outgoing tide after a southerly storm, I can almost picture a whirlpool.
Declan Saunders
May 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such an amazing novel - reminiscent of the Earthsea series by Ursula Le Guin in all the best ways. I can’t wait to get my hands on the second book!
Oct 08, 2019 added it
This book is well written and the character development really engrosses you. It can be a bit slow at the beginning but definitely worth it.
Kerryn Whiteside
Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
From the age of six Dow Amber's life seems mapped out for him*. Like his father and grandfathers before him he is to cut timber, and apart from yearly tree felling excursions on the Great Plateau, he will live out his life in the village of Yellow Bank. But the very first time Dow visits the Great Plateau, his father takes him to see the sea, and Dow's view of his world is changed forever. On returning to the village, his planned life seems confined and he longingly remembers the sea. As Dow ...more
Sep 21, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a strange book. The pacing, the world and the writing is unlike most other YA books. Perhaps this is because this is the author's first of the genre, but it's probably down to his style. It takes place in a fantasy world, but it is quite different form other fantasy worlds from other YA's. There are no dragons or knight or vampires. This world is very unique. New Island has been taken over by a powerful group of people called the Ship Kings. They rule the world with an iron fist, and ...more
Dec 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dow is born to be a woodcutter, being the eldest son, but finds his excitement quickly dulled once he begins his apprenticeship. But then he climbs to the headland on the edge of the forest and views the ocean for the first time. He is memsmerised - even more so when he sights great ships in the distance. But what use is a passion for the sea when you live in a village on the egde of the forest? And, what's more, where would such a notion come from?

Andrew McGahan has written a pleasing new
Kindred Spirit
Feb 11, 2012 rated it it was ok
The only thing stopping this book being traditional high fantasy was an absence of elves and dwarves. However, it still read like one and moved at a very slow pace for much of the book. I found it very difficult to get into and didn't overly enjoy it. The formality of the writing made it very hard to connect with the characters and I wasn't emotionally moved by or connected to many of the books events. The fact that this is the first book in a planned quartet may have had something to do with ...more
I am always interested in authors who originally write for authors then switch to YA or children's literature. What might they have to share that's fresh or different, who might their writing translate across to a different market?

McGahan shares a story with all the hallmarks of a classic: a hero's journey, a nautical tale, extraordinary descriptions, characters we can relate to and empathize with. Great stuff, if you can get to it. My one tiny complaint is the pace of the first third of the
Marj Osborne
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: young-adult, classics
The Coming of the Whirpool has all the elements of a modern classic for young adults: an unlikely hero who is only too aware of his frailty, a monumental struggle against the elements, drama, the hero's conflict within himself as well as with society.
The narrative's highs and lows mirror a sea voyage, the beginning of the journey, the quick takeoff under full sail, the unsettling calm of the doldrums, and the returning of the wind after the calm.
Although the language and level of description
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Why do the Young Adults get so many of the good stories. There should be another category "books for the Young Adults and readers who like to be lost in a good yarn".

In a fictional world where the Ship Kings rule and on North Island men are destined to follow in their fathers footsteps and pursue whatever job they had.
Each of the known Islands also have similar rules and each Island provide a specific set of goods to the Ship Kings. So the known world is ruled by rules and imposed fear.

Samantha-Ellen Bound
Feb 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
It is quite literary. You have to be quite dedicated to reading it. At least I did. I have picked it up and put it down since the start of the year. But the last quarter I read in a couple of days. The last quarter is where it all pays off – for me, where the story all comes together. I wasn’t sure about the book or the style or the story until the last quarter, when The Coming of the Whirlpool did indeed sweep me up in the awe and the adventure of the sea and sailing and Dow’s world. Somehow I ...more
Balthazar Lawson
Sep 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an adventure story about a boy who wants to lead a different life to that which is expected of him to lead. He doesn't want to be a wood cutter but instead wants to go to sea on ships, something that is no longer permitted in his land. This is set in the time of sail ships made of wood on an island that is controlled by a foreign power. This is the way it has been for 80 years but Dow Amber wants a different life and he is given the opportunity. His quest to go to sea has just begun.

Jan 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a joy. Rarely a book comes along that ticks all the boxes for me, but this one did. It not only told a great tale, but it twisted and turned in ways I wasn't expecting. I think I might even read the sequel (unheard of for me). No magic, just a world where the engine isn't invented yet - think "Pirates of the Carribbean"-style set in a world of Islands and the 'Pirates' are in charge.

Hugely recommended to Y9 and older as Dow Amber (our hero) starts young and ages to 16 by the end of this
Nov 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved it! I'd be surprised if not many people have heard about this book, it just seems too good to be true. And that ending! Ahh how I want the next book to come out! It's funny though, because this book was originally meant for my younger brother, but he never read it, it was during the holidays, I was bored. Add them all up and there you have it, I'm reading it. And I couldn't put it down. While quite a long book for just the beginning of a story, you will get sucked into the ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Have read Andrew McGahan's adult work and wondered how he would go with a book for younger readers. The plot really sets the stage for the coming adventures of Dow Amber, a young man with his heart set on following his dreams to a life of adventure on the high seas. This book contains much description which enables a very imagineable setting and well developed characters. Although a little slow at the beginning, I couldn't put it down.
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Similar to Rangers Apprentice, this looks like it is going tone an epic tale. The story is about Dow Amber and how he has a love for the sea even though he was born in the woods of the Highlands. We discover he is a great, great, great grandson of Admiral Honous Tombs, the last great sea captain of New Island. In the first book of the series we find out how Dow ends up going to sea and the adventurers he has along the way.
Karen ⊰✿
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: uno_2016
I found this very slow with little character or world development. By about 50 pages I was questioning if I should continue, but decided that as it is a series it must improve!
Sadly, I just never engaged with the story and although I pushed through to the end, I won't be continuing with the next book.
Jeanne Ferrier
May 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
A well-written and interesting YA novel. I liked how the writer developed a pretty realistic rich and developed society in an imaginary landscape, thus making this story relatable. It is more of an imaginary tale than a fantastic one. I'm sure it can be read by teenagers (from 14-15 I'd say) because the story never gets boring, however as a twentysomething I also enjoyed it a lot!
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya-fantasy
An engaging first book in the Ship Kings series. McGahan has a very readable style that is descriptive, emotive and engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed this as an adult, but this book builds momentum slowly and may not be as appealing for its intended, younger audience.
Laura Gomes
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it

Really enjoyed this adventure story. It's about a boy called Dow who does not want to live in the forest and chop wood for a living but wants to be out sailing the seas even though he has never done it before.
Lyn Battersby
Jan 28, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: awards
Lyn is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of Lyn herself, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

I will be reviewing and rating this once the AAs are announced.
Vanessa Turner
Jul 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Book Bazaar
Aug 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Andrew McGahan is amazing - he writes in so many different styles and always surprises. This is McGahan's first teen novel and it is the beginning of a fantasy trilogy. This is a magical novel with fascinating characters and a great set up. I can't wait to see where book 2 will take us.
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Andrew McGahan (b. 1966) was an Australian novelist, best known for his first novel Praise, and for his Miles Franklin Award-winning novel The White Earth. His novel Praise is considered to be part of the Australian literary genre of grunge lit.

Other books in the series

Ship Kings (4 books)
  • The Voyage of the Unquiet Ice (Ship Kings, #2)
  • The War of the Four Isles  (Ship Kings, #3)
  • The Ocean of the Dead (Ship Kings, #4)