A couple of months ago, I wrote about my top 3 OTPs, fictional couples that I ship so, so hard. Coming in at third place was ex-drug addict/rockstar/werewolf Cole St. Clair and L.A. no nonsense/you can kiss her a–/L.A. doll Isabel Culpepper from Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy. In these original books, Shiver, Linger, and Forever, Cole and Isabel were supporting—albeit awesome and incredibly interesting—characters. Now, they take center stage in Stiefvater’s newest book entitled Sinner.
When readers left Cole and Isabel at the end of Forever, Cole was werewolfing it up in Minnesota while Isabel was moving back to Los Angeles with her falling apart family. When Sinner picks up, Isabel is working in a Sunset Boulevard-esque boutique clothing store while attending classes to prep for medical school. She’s flying under the radar, doing her best to navigate her parents’ messy relationship and avoid any complications on her road to med school. Cole, on the other hand, is back in the spotlight. Returning to L.A. to film a reality television series while he records a new album, he is all the complications Isabel is trying to avoid. He is also determined to win her heart, but nothing is more guarded than Isabel Culpepper’s heart.
The entire book is a series of theatrical events as Cole and Isabel navigate through their own issues. L.A. is the perfect backdrop for the relationship drama and the music, and Stiefvater uses the setting to its full potential. Side characters fill out the story and provide the calm in the middle of the Colesabel hurricane. But while all the excitement and drama of the setting and characters is entertaining, the heart of the story is in the title, “Sinner.”
Cole and Isabel both have sins to spare. Cole carries the sins of his past: drugs, the death of his friend and band member Victor, the hundreds of girls he’s slept with. Isabel is dealing with the sins of the present, the scars her parents’ messy relationship has left on her, her fear of emotional vulnerability, and major trust issues. But, as Isabel points out in the novel, their sins are what make them who they are, and throughout the book Cole and Isabel learn to work past their many issues in order to be together.
Sinner is an excellent book, and I’m not just saying that because I love Cole and Isabel, though I do. It’s an excellent book because of Maggie Stiefvater’s amazing portrayal of people with all their flaws, all their hopes and fears, and all their complexities. A reader can’t help but love Cole and Isabel, not just despite, but because of, their flaws. Sinner is a character masterpiece, a dream setting, and a great story. With all the flair one would expect from a Maggie Stiefvater novel.