I don’t think I’ve read anything by Maggie Stiefvater that I didn’t enjoy, but for me, ‘Sinner’ is kind of a masterpiece. It’s similar to her other books‐ fantasy setting, teen characters‐ but it’s different in that, for me at least, it was more about the emotions of the characters, the bonds between them, life in general, than it is about being a werewolf or riding a waterhorse. The great thing is, Maggie is already obviously versed in creating excellent emotions in her characters and displaying them, but in ‘Sinner,’ she lets them be the center of the story.
I didn’t really feel like ‘Sinner’ had a lot of plot, which is… I adore books without plot. I’m not being sarcastic. I don’t really like plot. I like a plot that’s so loose and meandering you have a hard time defining what it is, and that’s what you get here. Cole, the main character, and his love interest, Isabel, were characters in Maggie’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy, which was good. I liked it, but what I liked the very best about that trilogy was these two side characters‐ Cole and Isabel‐ and how complex and fascinating they were. I loved them, and after reading the end of the trilogy I actually wrote a review about how I hoped that their story would get its own book. And it did!
So. Cole is a werewolf. Isabel isn’t, but she knows about the wolves. And she loves Cole. And he is seriously in love with her. But he was a drug addict (and a rock star) and now he’s trying to not be a drug addict, trying not to be addicted to changing into a werewolf, trying to win Isabel’s trust, and trying to be a rock star, all over again, after losing one of his best friends and his band mate. Meanwhile, Isabel is trying to put her own life back together after the death of her brother and the split in her parent’s marriage. And that’s pretty much it. That’s what’s going on in ‘Sinner.’ (You don’t need to read the rest of the Mercy Falls trilogy to really get into this book, if you don’t want to. But you could.)
So why did I love ‘Sinner’ so much? Well, the first reason is pretty shallow‐ it takes place in L.A., and I just freaking love books that are well‐written and take place there. There’s a magic to that city‐ it’s like a land all of its own, set apart, sparkling, grimy, complex in itself, like a living entity, and if the author manages to capture that in writing, it can really lend itself to telling a story. And Maggie Stiefvater does this. So well. So beautifully. The whole time I was reading this, I was there. In the sun and the city and the sand and the dirty, rock star glamour of it all.
Secondly, I love these characters. I mean, I am in love with them. Cole is… just one of the most interesting, three dimensional characters I’ve read in a long time. He’s broken and sad and his mind is a mess, but he’s good, too, and he loves Isabel, and I never, never had to question that, or question why he loved her. Sometimes it was hard for me to read this book, because the aspects of Cole’s struggle to get back into music and his troubles with addiction were so, so real. It kind of hit home in a lot of ways, and that was uncomfortable. And sometimes Cole frightened me. He made me nervous and angry and I didn’t want to like him, sometimes, but I still loved him. I felt for Isabel, too. (And talk about deep and interesting characters‐ she is so real and alive and I knew her. ) I knew she wanted to trust Cole, and I knew she couldn’t, and I completely understood her struggle.
Even the secondary characters are excellent. Cole’s chauffeur, who he later befriends, offers a lot of depth, as does Cole’s friend and old band mate, his new band mates, and Isabel’s cousin.
This is a fantasy novel, but it isn’t. It’s a teen book, but it isn’t. It’s a romance, but it’s not all about romance. It’s about struggle. It’s about falling in love and trusting people and forming bonds and breaking them. It’s about choosing what you want for yourself. It’s about consequences. It’s about rebuilding. It’s about remembering who you used to be and merging that with who you are now.
It’s beautiful. It’s deep and dark and so real. I feel that Maggie Stiefvater just let herself run wild with this book, just poured whatever she felt needed to be here into this book, and damn anyone who says it needs more action or less action or more emotion or less, or whatever else. It’s honest. It says what it needs to say, and that may not be what everyone’s looking for, may make it hard to fit this into a certain category or genre, but it works because of it. And I love it.