Other Reviewers: Goodreads
Lately I have been trying to save money for our new house by not buying so many books. That combined with my new job and new friends means less time available to read. Next week, I will be reviewing Rhys Ford’s Clockwork Tangerine. But I just could not put this book down this week and was massively impressed with the concept, writing, and conclusion. So I HAD to do a review of Rat’s Alley by Auburn this week.
Normally with any Fan-Fiction, the author either goes into two directions: Same-world, just alternative storyline or alternate storyline. I have written several book reviews and blog posts which are here. For this book we have a post-apocalyptic setting, and while they are still werewolves and the same characters on the TV show, the setting and plot is completely different.
What happens to the Pack when a catastrophic electrical breakdown happens in society? Will they all make it back to Beacon Hill? Will they all survive? Will this be the chance for Stiles and Derek to stop fighting their attraction and accept fate?
Stiles has the same personality that we see in the TV show. He is smart and sassy, always getting into trouble but uses his brain to find a way out. The story is set farther ahead in time, Stiles is now 20, with Derek being 26, so no longer do we have that conflict of “dating a teenager”. In the beginning of this book we see him in Mexico, south Mexico. He is doing some magical training with Consuelo, a witch. When the satellite phone stops working for several days, he knows something horrible has happened, so he begins his way back up Highway 1 to the pack in California. Luckily, the old Jeep is old enough to still run, most of the other cars won’t start.
Through Stiles we start to see how it must feel to have to rely on only yourself in isolation. He has to pack up and travel, alone in what he is beginning to understand is a something world-changing.
By the second day, Stiles had that crawling, hunch your shoulders and get ready to run feeling that always preceded another shit show. He hadn’t heard from the pack in more than a week. Derek insisted on weekly check ins — either someone called Stiles or he was supposed to call Derek to prove he was still alive. It went both ways: Stiles couldn’t settle if he was worrying about the pack. And now all he could do was worry about them and Derek in particular and, damn it, he should have taken his chances and said something to Derek before leaving, what if it was too late…?
We get that feeling of danger, tension, and deep feelings early on in the story that creates buy-in for their relationship to work.
Derek is one of my favorite characters on the TV show, and this book portrays his character correctly. Derek is physically strong, and steps in when he should to protect those that he loves or to do the right thing. We see early on in this book as he helps those in the car crash, that he has a moral strength in him to try to help others. But always, in the back of his mind is loyalty and duty to the pack. Pack always comes first. Keep in mind that this is Derek at 26, so he has matured as a person and as an Alpha, so some angst we might have seen with his character in the TV has left.
“You’re back,” she said eventually.
“I’ve got water,” Derek told her.
“This is Alex.”
“Angela Bailey. This is Billy.”
Billy peaked at Alex briefly then hid his face against his mother again.
They both looked at Derek. Derek handed Angela a bottle of water and didn’t offer his name.
Angela alternated drinking and giving sips to Billy. Alex winced when he saw Danny’s covered body and said nothing. He sipped slowly at the bottle of water Derek handed him and squinted westward. “Any ideas?” he asked eventually.
“Walk,” Derek replied. A ragged line of people already had the same idea. Some were headed west down the side of the highway, though a few were marching back, maybe figuring they were closer to a town in that direction.
“My grand dad has a house in Afton,” Angela said unexpectedly. “We should go there.”
Derek shrugged and finished his own water. “I’ve got to get back to L.A.” He glanced down at Angela and Billy, then caught Alex’s gaze. “keep the water.”
So we see early one from this quote that his focus is always the health and safety of his pack.
This book has a lot of plot and action, so that always makes the theme harder for me to uncover. But for me, the theme was simple: Never give up, always move forward. It actually reminds me of the quote (from Winston Churchill) that the counselor gave Stiles in the TV show: “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” And that is what both Stiles and Derek do throughout this novel. They have to go through hell to get back home, and even then there might not be a magical happy ending.
What did I love?
This author kicked it when it came to creating a dark and dangerous environment through writing. I was amazed at how unnerved I was while reading it. It gave me the same feelings that Stephen King’s The Stand did. Not because she was stealing plot or anything, she just has the ability to so thoroughly build the scene that you are SEEING it, FEELING it, and TASTING it. Be prepared, the first few chapters with Derek will have you drawn into the storyline quickly and it will be hard to put the book down.
A river of weekend gamblers were pouring back to the LA basin – Derek’s bail jumper had been one of them, now in the hands of the Las Vegas PD – and Derek let his foot press down the gas a little more, half intending to pass the mini-convoy of semis ahead of him. The SUV coughed and died instead; not just the engine but the electronics as well. Swift reflexes and strength let Derek wrestle the steering wheel right, hard enough to bounce off the Interstate and maintain control as it bounded onto the shoulder at eighty-five miles an hour. The SUV pin-balled and smashed sideways between two other vehicles in a horrendous screech of metal on metal and dust rose in a choking cloud around it.
So, the writing is compelling, but I also liked how the relationship of Sterek evolved through this book. We can tell based on when it happens that the friendship is strong, and they already do love each other, just neither had moved it to the physical because of fear of hurting the friendship. This story starts at that point and then because of nature of the trip, we don’t have sex every five minutes. There is actual plot and character development.
I also loved how the author ended this book. This is a traveling story, when the environment and journey IS the story; how Stiles and Derek handle the problems along the way back to Beacon Hill. So, as they get closer and closer, while the book is still building tension, you KNOWN that more trouble is coming. It was a great way to build the suspense within the storyline.
What could be better?
I really could not think of anything better about this book. It is fan-fiction, so some editing might be expected (not for spelling but rather for pacing), but other than that it was a great book.
I have a love for fan-fiction, no doubt about it. What I like about it is the freedom to take something that originally was well thought-out in characterizations and world creating. Fan-fiction gives us a chance to play with the world and plot, giving us something new and exciting that is not limited by society, ratings, producers, or the networks.
In Rats’ Alley, we see this in action. The storyline is epic in scope and direction, more than “just a romance”. You will go through numerous emotions: fear, hope, pain, lust, love, and determination. When the ending happens, it makes you feel glad, but only when you realize that some things will never be the same and we can only adapt.
This is a wonderful book, and I hope that this fan-fiction author goes on to become a professional author because she certainly has the skill to do so.