Snow, White by Keith Austin

Rating 7.8/10
Definitely more Grimm than Disney.

Keith Austin’s Snow, White is a contemporary young adult fantasy that draws inspiration from classic fairy tales that are still so well loved. But it is definitely more Grimm than Disney.

John Creed's nights are haunted by dreams of a white wolf, his days by the hideous class bully. He's a loner with a stutter and his home-life - with an eccentric grandfather who wants to teach him folklore and ancient languages - is isolated and unusual. But then John makes a friend - Fyre. She's as unusual as John and has her own secrets to keep, but as the truth about John's past starts to emerge, she's the best ally he's got...

Keith Austin, an Englishman now living in Sydney, has spent a lifetime writing. He has been a journalist for more than 35 years and this comfort with words has enabled him to write a flowing narrative that is initially very strong on characterisation. He has also given the book’s lead, John, a stutter, something he himself has.

In recent times I’ve read many books aimed at young adults and must admit to having become rather jaded with it all as it seems like too many authors were telling similar stories in a similar way. It took a book like Snow, White to remind me just how good young adult fiction can be when it treats the reader as a young adult and not as an older child. And another thing in the book’s favour is that the romance found within its pages was not some insipid love triangle that took up too many pages but a realistic look at how teenagers begin to develop and experience feelings for each other.

I initially expected a re-telling, or to use the Tim Burton phrase a “re-imagining”, of the Snow White fairly tale and although this is to a small extent true this is a unique story in its own right, containing only the subtlest of allusions to the Grimm classic.

As already mentioned, Austin writes teenagers very well, both male and female. John and Fyre are very likeable, all the more so for being flawed like the rest of us. And the villains, which include the unforgettable kitten-tapper and his son are truly menacing, a little larger than life but still within the boundaries of believability.

But… and this is a big but, half way through the book changes direction, moving away from the character-driven narrative that was working so well and into the realms of all-out action, and this sudden change didn’t really work for me. What the book had done so well up until then was bring the characters to life by showing us their histories and allowing us access to their thoughts. But suddenly the story and character progression were lost as battle-mode was enabled and I’m afraid my interest in the story lessened as my warmth towards the characters dissipated. And this I found a real shame as I had enjoyed the first half so much. But what I read and enjoyed so much means I would still happily recommend Snow, White and also read any future works from Mr Austin.

If you are looking for a horror/fantasy book suitable for the young adult market, one that blows all those Twilight clones out of the water and one whose story and characters are initially very strong then Snow, White is a book you should try.

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Snow, White reader reviews

from Australia


Crap. Rushed plot, poor climax and falling action. Not enough detail at the end. Don't read.

from Australia


Keith Austin’s Snow, White is a contemporary young adult fantasy that pulls together subtle references to our historical fairy tales. For me, this fantasy world was quite unusual: almost strangely interesting. But at the end of the day, it is a book that shows potential in its storyline, but fails to build suspense, inspire our imagination, and keep us turning the pages. Before I talk about what I thought of the plot and characterisation, here is a quick synopsis of the novel: John Creed, the lead character in the novel, is haunted by his dreams of the White Wolf—the villain in the story that helps create the denouement. He is also taunted by Casper Locke, a member of John’s class who picks on John’s characteristics: three scars and a stutter. As a result, John is alone with his dream and his peculiar grandfather, who teaches him folklore and ancient languages. However, desolate John Creed befriends Fyre King – an unusual character whose life is just as abnormal as John’s. This relationship sparks John’s interest, and the days of being reticent slowly start to fade away. Nearing the novel’s climax, conversely, John starts to unravel the mysteries of his past, and it is then Fyre’s job to support him. (And then an interesting, but not really interesting, cliffhanger): What will happen next? (Note: the rest of the review may contain slight spoilers). First, I would like to talk about Characterisation. Characterisation, for the most part, was adequate. Particularly at the beginning of the story, Austin gives insight into John’s thoughts, and also how he feels about the other characters. My major problem with the characterisation, though, is that Austin was unable to maintain this level of detail in the character’s thoughts and relationships. Indeed, leading up to the climax, the book seemed rushed as John began to piece together new information about his past. In fact, during the climax, one or two pages were filled with so much action that it was almost incomprehensible. I think Austin needed to slow down and make sure the audience had time to appreciate the action. If this meant that the book had 50 more pages, I would not be fussed. Finally, plot. Although characterisation is very important, the plot is pivotal. Without a successful plot, there is no essence of a complete and engaging story. Now, the plot I got in Snow, White was poor. Absolutely poor. And this is for many reasons: 1. A predictable plot. (Because he needed to defeat the White Wolf, and since this a fairy tale, it is obvious what the outcome would be) 2. The Climax was poor. The action was placed in basically the last 50 – 60 pages, and it therefore felt very rushed. 3. A more well-developed falling action. A proper falling action in this story would have been beneficial. This is because it would have given the audience time to understand the final thoughts of the characters, and to appreciate the action and outcome. While you may argue that I have made few comments about the plot here, I am here to say that these are imperative elements of a story. Think about it. The climax, or action, is the part where you find how your hero achieves their goal. And the elements leading up to the action are made gripping with mysteries, twists and turns. Keith Austin, unfortunately, didn’t deliver in this regard. As I said above, the plot is predicable, particularly because of the fairy tale setting. And, with such a predicable plot, it is hard to live the journey with the characters. This is since you already know what’s going to happen, and so you (as if you were living it the journey) would not be able to experience the confusion, the intrigue, the mystery, etc. Overall, the character development, while effective at the beginning, was not maintained in the climax/action. This development was also hindered because we cannot experience the mystery that the characters would have felt, as the plot was predicable. Moreover, the plot was not well mapped out, because Austin didn’t know how to develop an effective climax – he rushed it at the end. Now, I would not recommend this read to anyone. It is a complete waste of time. By the end, if you do get to the end, it is ultimately a novel that you will not savour.

3.9/10 from 3 reviews

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