Keith Austin has made a strong impression upon me as a writer of quality fiction for older children and young adults. In fact, I’d go as far to suggest that he is an upcoming writer to watch out for; Australia’s very own Neil Gaiman. I make this statement, still somewhat perplexed, that local publishers are not clamouring to sign him up. Did they even read his manuscript submission? Fortunately, a UK publisher did, thus bringing Austin’s amazing stories to the world.
Snow White tells the story of John Creed, a rather awkward 13 year old, whose stutter and facial disfigurement see him withdraw from his peers. In the words of another Jon, “winter is coming”, and with it the snow has begun to fall, covering London with a white blanket that threatens to draw the city and its inhabitants into a deep slumber, only disturbed by a multiplying sparrow and crow population. When John forms a friendship with the mysterious albino girl, Fyre King, the pair embark on an adventure to uncover the past and take on a pack of bloodthirsty wolves.
There are so many things to love about this book. From the very outset Austin reaches out to his audience, reeling them into his gloriously woven tale with spell-binding language and darkly shrouded humour. However, yet again, it is his talent for creating memorable characters which makes this book shine brightest. I will forever be haunted by ‘the Kitten Tapper’, and will revel in the cast of minor characters, richly crafted, especially the split personality of Mr Christmas, Mordecai and the tea-swilling Duchess. My only criticism is that I wanted to find out more about the White Wolf, making me think that there is definitely a sequel in this book. I’d red hot keen to discover more about Fyre and John and their interdimensional adventures.
Snow White is a title that will hold broad appeal for students in the middle years. The supernatural themes of the story are not overpowering, balanced out with a good dose of reality, so as to not alienate readers who might be intimidated by books of the gothic-fantasy genre. While this is probably not a text I would use as a class novel, it is certainly something I would share with students as a space-filling treat at the end of a lesson. Read aloud, students will love it, and as an added bonus I imagine that many of them will beat a path to the nearest library so as to read Austin’s other titles Grymm and Jago.