I read Keith Austin’s novel Snow White thanks to my awesome book buddy Stef from Dodging Commas. I always look forward to her visits because she always arrives loaded with books for me to read. This novel was in my last pile and I’d been keen to get my hands on it ever since Stef had texted me baffling comments on the book while she had read it a few weeks earlier.

I’ve read a lot of young adult fantasy and science fiction, and, strangely enough, the main protagonist is more often a girl. It’s unclear whether this is due to more female writers publishing in this genre, if there’s a large enough audience base of young girls to target, or that boys are able to connect to the main character whether they are a boy or a girl (which would be brilliant if that was the case though would the Harry Potter novels be as popular if Harry was Harriet? Hmm, something to ponder.) Snow White does flit between a few points of view; however, the main character is John Creed, a twelve-year-old boy on the cusp of turning thirteen. He is also the only protagonist I’ve read who has a pronounced stutter and he cops a lot of bullying because of it. The three disfiguring scars across his face don’t help much either. Compared to Harry Potter, poor John Creed looks like he’s been mauled by a dog even though the scars came from the car accident that claimed his parents when he was a baby.

Then there’s Fyre King from his year, an albino with an affinity to winter and a dark secret. She knows what it’s like to be stared at, which leads to her befriending Creed, and together the two begin to uncover Creed’s past. And what a dark past it is. This novel belongs equally to the horror genre as it does with fantasy, and it’s not surprising when considering its inspiration.

The 19th century Grimm’s fairytale “Snow White” is a fair deal darker than Disney’s version. While they both feature an evil queen step-mother (and it’s always the stepmother!) and a poisoned apple, the Grimm’s story also includes a lace bodice designed to suffocate and a poisoned comb. The ending is quite a bit darker, too. Instead of the evil queen plummeting to her death (and it’s implied her body is devoured by vultures), the evil queen is invited to Snow White’s royal wedding and on arrival she’s forced to wear a pair of glowing-hot iron shoes and dance until she drops dead. Yeah, Snow White can sure hold a grudge!

Austin’s Snow White has flavours of the Grimm fairytale such as the mirrors and the Hunter family (a whole lot of huntsmen), except this story has a whole lot more bodies. And I should really mention the gore. The first chapter is pretty bloody and it only gets more gruesome, especially Tapper Locke. Now he’s a villain that any fairytale would be proud of! For young readers (and young of heart) who are after a bit more bite from their fiction, Austin’s Snow White should hit the spot, without taking itself too seriously. I’d give it three out of five claw marks.