Review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

18406862Title: Sinner

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: July 2014

ISBN: 9780545654586

Sinner (The Wolves of Mercy Falls #3.5)

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole’s story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole’s darkest secret — his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel’s life. Can this sinner be saved?

I have not read the other books in The Wolves of Mercy Falls series so picking up this stand alone book, I had no knowledge of the novels that precede it. Sinner is fantastic because it’s a werewolf novel that does things differently. It’s not about being a werewolf. It’s about celebrity, a struggle with addiction, the turbulence of love, the loyalty of friendship, and the effects of loss. Maggie, as always, is a strong and gripping writer with captivating prose and confident statements. Her writing is like curling up in a warm, familiar blanket in the car on a road trip: comforting and familiar, but exciting and new.

I loved the character of Cole St. Clair. He’s a recovering addict and he’s struggling to survive in a world saturated with booze and Cocaine. Clearly he has a terrible past and he’s survived major tragedy and a lot of self-harm, but he’s in a stage of his life where he’s dedicated to staying clean. He’s open and truthful and very pure. He loves unconditionally and without reserve. He’s driven to make a change in his life. He doesn’t shirk responsibility. However, he struggles daily with the demons with his past. He is not without fault. As a character, I found him so real and fleshed out.

The use of the wolf as Cole’s escape and reprieve from reality is a vivid image and a unique treatment of the werewolf story. We’ve seen werewolves again and again these past few years and I’d have said we’ve exhausted that trope, but Stiefvater’s approach is so original. The wolf is a symbol of Cole’s struggle with addiction. He may have thrown off drugs, but he can’t cast aside the wolf. It’s his weakness. We don’t even really get to witness his transformation until later in the book.

I wasn’t as keen on Isabel and that’s why I’ve given this novel 4 stars. I’m not sure if the previous books in the series give her more context as a person, but as a stand alone novel, there was not enough to her story to excuse her awful behaviour. She’s self-centred and rude. She acknowledges herself as a “bitch,” but does nothing to change it. She does experience some character growth in the end, but I found her to be impulsive and needlessly mean. I love some cranky characters, but there needs to be a reason and a drive and I didn’t feel as though Isabel presented enough of that to justify her actions.

Sinner made for great reading material this weekend. I can’t wait to read even more of Maggie Stiefvater!

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