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War for the Oaks: A Novel Paperback – July 6, 2001

4.4 out of 5 stars 129 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Emma Bull's debut novel, War for the Oaks, placed her in the top tier of urban fantasists and established a new subgenre. Unlike most of the rock & rollin' fantasies that have ripped off Ms. Bull's concept, War for the Oaks is well worth reading. Intelligent and skillfully written, with sharply drawn, sympathetic characters, War for the Oaks is about love and loyalty, life and death, and creativity and sacrifice.

Eddi McCandry has just left her boyfriend and their band when she finds herself running through the Minneapolis night, pursued by a sinister man and a huge, terrifying dog. The two creatures are one and the same: a phouka, a faerie being who has chosen Eddi to be a mortal pawn in the age-old war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Eddi isn't interested--but she doesn't have a choice. Now she struggles to build a new life and new band when she might not even survive till the first rehearsal.

War for the Oaks won the Locus Magazine award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society Award. Other books by Emma Bull include the novels Falcon, Bone Dance (second honors, Philip K. Dick Award), Finder (a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award), and (with Stephen Brust) Freedom and Necessity; the collection Double Feature (with Will Shetterly); and the picture book The Princess and the Lord of Night. --Cynthia Ward

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published by Ace in 1987, this reprint of a minor fantasy cult classic should attract new readers with its appealing and unusual blend of the world of rock and roll performers with the coexistent world of Faerie. Guitarist and singer Eddi McCandry has just left a floundering band and is organizing a new one when a phouka, a man who at times is a talking dog, becomes her guardian at the behest of the Faerie Folk. Eddi soon finds herself involved with warring Faerie groups, the Seelie Court and its noble queen versus the Unseelie Court, ruled by the evil Queen of Air and Darkness. The Seelie Court has chosen Eddi because there's "power in a mortal soul that all of Faerie cannot muster." Eddi's tart humor helps lend reality. When the phouka says, "Forth to honor and glory," she responds, "Get stuffed." For many readers, the fey qualities of the wispy fantasy may be enough; Eddi even labels her new band Eddi and the Feys. The strength of the novel, however, is in the nonfantasy scenes. These demonstrate a sure knowledge of rock music and the field, and contribute to the climax, a struggle between Eddi and the dark queen at a concert. In an appendix of special interest to fans, Bull (Bone Dance, etc.) includes excerpts of a screenplay version of the book she and her husband, Will Shetterly, wrote. A film appears an unlikely bet, but the author's prose portrayal of Faerie infringing on the real world remains an imaginative triumph.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books (July 6, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765300346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765300348
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (129 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I write science fiction and fantasy, both novels and... Well, I'd say short stories, but they often wind up as novelettes. Or novellas. Usually novellas. My parents observed early on that I was a yakky kid.

I was born in Torrance, California. After that, my family moved to Houston, Texas; Beloit, Wisconsin; South Plainfield, New Jersey; and Rockton, Illinois. Since I was still short a few states at that point, I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota after graduating from Beloit College. From there, I moved to Los Angeles, California; Bisbee, Arizona; and Tucson, Arizona.

Hmm. Still short a few states.

I'm married to author Will Shetterly. I have two cats: Toby, the best cat in the world; and Barnabas, the worst cat in the world.

I'd list my published work, but hey, this is Amazon.com! If there isn't already a link to everything somewhere around here, just search for me!

In addition to my solo writing, I'm the Executive Producer of Shadow Unit, the best science fiction thriller TV show in prose form ever. So far, at least. My Co-Producer is Elizabeth Bear. Writing staff includes Will Shetterly, Sarah Monette, Amanda Downum, Leah Bobet, Chelsea Polk, and Holly Black. We're in our third season as I write this. Check it out at www.shadowunit.org.

As my Amazon Wish List shows, I'm a Man from Uncle and Wild, Wild West fan. I crochet. I sew. I like cowboy reenacting and Victorian dress-up and dancing. I also play guitar and sing, and was proud to be a member of Minneapolis band Cats Laughing and goth-folk duo the Flash Girls.

I'm just a little bit obsessed with coffee.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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"War for the Oaks" is the story of Eddi McCandry, who starts the story out playing guitar in Minneapolis bars. Coming home from the breakup of her last band she finds herself drafted into the oldest of wars. The conflict waged by the Fay of the Seelie court, the house of light, against the creatures of darkness and the queen of night herself. Her part is to be that mortal who enables the elves to kill each other, so that the battle will have a final conclusion.
Emma Bull's elves are not the sweet folk that inhabit child's fairy tales. Instead they are the harsh, often cruel yet beautiful folk that frightened our ancestors years ago. Their manners have no human equivalent and they are cold, passionate, harsh, tender, noble and terrible almost at random. Into this world Eddi finds her way, guided by the whimsical Phouka who can be dog or man at will, and who dresses himself from an invisible closet of finery.
In between the battles and conflicts Eddi assembles a new band composed of her close friend Carla on drums, Dan Rochelle on keyboards, mumbling Hedge on bass and Willy Silver on lead guitar. Together they become part of the magic and form the base for Eddi's own powers, which she has acquired from her new place in Faerie. But it will take all the band's power, all that the Seelie court has to offer, and a bit of pure luck besides to win the battle for Minneapolis. Especially when nothing is quite what it seems. For if the Fay never lie, they still can twist the truth to the quick.
"War for the Oaks" is considerably more than a fantasy tale. It is also a fine romance. The elves understand the form of love, but they have little grasp of the content. Human feelings are a world apart from them.
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Format: Paperback
There are no dragons here, but you won't miss them. Instead you'll find a superb tale of faerie, music, and romance. Emma Bull and Steven Brust (also a well known fantasy author) were at one point two components of the band Cats Laughing, and Bull uses her musical knowledge and experience to great advantage here. Her descriptions of practice sessions and performances will resonate with any music fan, and she skillfully weaves this into a major component of her tale of Eddi, selected by the Seelie to invoke the boon of mortality on the battles of the faerie world. To protect Eddi until the time of the battle, a phouka is assigned to guard her, at times a formidable dog, at other times a whimsical human trickster. Though quite predictable, there is a slowly building romance between the two, and this defines both characters to a depth that is rare in fantasy, as each impacts on and reacts to the other, and wind their way into the reader's heart.
The world of faerie is seen at a distance (even though the major characters are directly involved in some of the faerie battles), never fully explained or examined in detail, and this very indistinctness adds flavor, a bit of mystery, and charm to what is really a story of and about some of our deepest emotions. The final battle between Eddi and the Queen of Air and Darkness is extraordinarily different, drawing on the 'magical' emotional state that sometimes occurs between the makers and hearers of music, rather than swords, spells, talismans, or some hidden bit of arcane knowledge so common to the climax of most fantasy.
Different, powerful, skillfully told, this book is a charmer.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book about three years ago, back when it was still out of print, and I was very excited when I heard it was being reprinted. I can't exactly decide whether I like the cover, but it's certainly better than the old one.
Eddi McCandry is the guitar player for a lousy band. They're not really going anywhere, and neither, particularly, is her life. One night, everything changes: the band splits up, she breaks up with the lead singer, and she gets chosen to be the mortal talisman for a war between the Seelie and Unseelie fey.
This is all okay, though, because she gets to put another band together, and they're good. Really good. Especially the other guitarist . . . and let's not forget her bodyguard, the phouka . . . Oh, yeah, she needs a bodyguard because the Unseelie fey are trying to kill her, in between band rehearsals and battles . . .
One thing that really made me laugh about this book was the setting. It's the eighties. Eddi's clothing, which is REALLY COOL by the standards of the book, sounds like something off of Saved by the Bell.
This is definitely a book for fantasy-punk geeks: the music mentioned includes bands such as Boiled in Lead (Celtic Rock) and David Bowie (self-explanatory); the fashions, albeit eighties, are the same; and the general demeanor of the book is rather Borderlands-y. (Which makes sense, considering Emma Bull was one of the co-creators of the original Borderlands series.)
However, even if you aren't a fantasy-punk geek, you can still read it. It's engaging and has very likable characters; the plot takes a couple of not-precisely-as-expected turns; the description of the fey is interesting and fits fairly well with the expected fantasy fey-canon (she didn't try to rewrite the Sidhe as bloodsucking ugly vampires, for example).
So, to end, elements of fantasy, realism, eighties-punk, romance, and humanity make it accessible and readable by anyone. Even those who don't remember the eighties.
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