Book review: Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

Title: Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

Publisher:  Titan Books

Publication date: 2 April 2019

Genre: Fantasy | Paranormal | Young Adult

Page count: 336 pages

Rating: 3.75 out of 5 stars

Synopsis: The house at the end of the lane burned down, and Rita Frost and her teenage ward, Bevan, were never seen again. The townspeople never learned what happened. Only Mae and her brother Rossa know the truth; they spent two summers with Rita and Bevan, two of the strangest summers of their lives… Because nothing in that house was as it seemed: a cat who was more than a cat, and a dark power called Sweet James that lurked behind the wallpaper, enthralling Bevan with whispers of neon magic and escape. And in the summer heat, Mae became equally as enthralled with Bevan. Desperately in the grips of first love, she’d give the other girl anything. A dangerous offer when all that Sweet James desired was a taste of new flesh…

Other Words for Smoke is a delightfully creepy and haunting tale about a haunted house in Ireland and a cat who isn’t really a cat, which in my opinion, sells this book more than any words in my review ever could.

Twins Mae and Rossa are sent to live with their great Aunt Rita during their parent’s slow relationship breakdown. There, they meet Bevan, an older teen that Rita took in after Bevan’s mum dissappeared. Bevan is seemingly in the thrall of a paranormal being, who lives in the walls of her room – Sweet James. The book tells the tale of Sweet James’ creeping influence over the household and his attempts to tempt and ‘eat’ various members of the house.

Other Words for Smoke is very different to the books I normally read – I usually stay as far away from paranormal books as I can as they really scare me, but I picked this up after hearing lots of people talking about in on my Twitter feed and then seeing the stunning cover in the bookshop. It’s told from three POVs, Mae, Rossa and Bevan. Bevan’s POV is definitely the most interesting, it’s told in the second tense, as if Sweet James is talking about her. It is fantastically creepy and you can really see the insidious way that Sweet James’ influence comes over her. Rossa was my least favourite – though in saying that, he really did feel very realistic, I just really didn’t like him as a person, he felt quite self-centred and didn’t seem to care much for his twin.

Obviously, I do have a special mention for Bobby the cat, the cat who’s not quite a cat. I won’t give anything away, but I really feel that more books should have a cat like this because it would make all my dreams come true.

The book has a very lyrical and other-wordly quality to the writing, it feels very fairytale-esque which I love, and it really fits the setting of the book, in this small, country town in Ireland. I did enjoy the second half of the book more, I felt the characters were much more relatable in the second half when they have aged a few years. I really enjoyed seeing the characters grow up and seeing how they developed and changed after the events in the first half of the book. The pace during the first half did also feel a little slow for me, but it did fit the style of the story well.

All in all, this book was a really delightful find, and I think Sarah Maria Griffin really needs some kind of reward for making me almost pass out on a tram when I was commuting home from work one day due to a certain ear piercing scene. I am very glad I picked up this book, and if you’re looking for a creepy fairytale-esque story with a coming of age feel, definitely try this book!

Paws out x

2 thoughts on “Book review: Other Words for Smoke by Sarah Maria Griffin

  1. […] Other Words for Smoke is a very haunting, lyrical, fairytale-esque horror tale about an evil being in a house in Ireland. Dealing with the struggles of growing up alongisde the magic, Other Words for Smoke weaves a beautiful mystical world. Also there’s a talking cat. What else does a book need?! You can read my full review here! […]


  2. […] Other Words for Smoke is just as creepy but in a very different way to Wilder Girls. The setting is really what makes this book so creepy to me – set in a small Irish town, there is such a sense of disturbing fairytale in the prose. The way Sweet James can control and twist the minds of those around them just adds to this creepy atmosphere. Full review here! […]


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