The problem I had with most of the prior Stiefvater novels were the leads, who were basically the sort of people who murder banter. They bore me to tears. Cole and Isabel’s narration on the other hand crackles and pops with incendiary wit. They’re rough-edges, tremendously-flawed, violent, strange, hateful, inconsiderate, stubborn, and visceral. They’re not the sort of people I can imagine myself being friends with ever, but they’re fascinating. They’re compelling, the sort of people who, against their own will sometimes, cannot help drawing other people to them, like the flame that draws moths. These are the sort of characters that I like to read about.
In Sinner, I feel like Stiefvater may have realized somewhere along the line that the wolf thing isn’t really the best part. In fact, the wolf stuff hardly factors into this book at all. If you loved the Mercy Falls series for the shifting, you might be disappointed, but, if you were skeptical, then this is what you wanted. In fact, read as a standalone, the wolf is so entirely a metaphor in this book for the escapism Cole St. Clair indulged in during his younger years. The wolf is his desire to not be himself, to not think, to not deal, to not live as a human. The wolf is much more powerful this way than as an odd paranormal plot line, because, honestly, it factors into the plot not an iota.
Were I one to use the classification, I would actually put Sinner in new adult, probably. Though they’re still young, Cole and Isabel are dealing with new adult problems. Isabel’s taking a nursing class before med school and working a retail job. Cole’s a rock star trying to figure out what to do with his life. Unlike the rest of the Mercy Falls books, there’s not the slightest touch of high school in this one. Sinner is dark and edgy.
Both Isabel and Cole have inner demons to fight. That’s the real plot here. Can these two get together in spite of themselves? They’re drawn to each other, but they’re both hesitant to commit for various reasons. Ultimately, they don’t entirely trust one another and for good reason. Cole doesn’t trust Isabel to stay and Isabel doesn’t trust Cole to stay sober. Their relationship problems are their own and no one else’s. No one is trying to keep them apart and, actually, they do have some shippers trying to help these two kids work it out.
The other aspect of Sinner I found so charming were the characters that Cole and Isabel pick up along the way. I say ‘pick up’ because they don’t do anything the way ‘normal’ people do. Cole befriends his driver, Leon, an older man a bit sad with life. I also adore Isabel’s cousin Sofia and would honestly love a book about her coming of age, the poor sweet dear. There’s just something so fabulous about the way Cole and Isabel interact with people. They’ve got such powerful voices and ways of being. Plus, I have to love any two people who are so incredibly terrible at small talk as Cole and Isabel. It’s so much fun watching them either intimidate or confuse anyone they speak to.
What Left Me Wanting More:
I never found myself truly absorbed and feeling with the characters, but that's all I have to say against it.
The Final Verdict:
If Sinner is what Maggie Stiefvater’s writing has become since her debut, I may just have to jump on the bandwagon. Sinner‘s a departure from the rest of the Mercy Falls books, so that’s something to be aware of. I think there’s definitely appeal here for new adult readers who might have been hesitant to try something paranormal in a series. Though part of the series, it does serve nicely as a standalone.