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War for the Oaks: A Novel Paperback – July 6, 2001
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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
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
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. Eddi McCandry must confront them over this weakness and teach several of them the significance and power of human feelings. This is romance without ever being exaggerated or cloying, and is what makes the novel so compelling.
Emma Bull is not a prolific author. She has, I believe, four novels to her credit and a fair number of short stories. Perhaps, because of her pacing, her work is carefully polished. Settings and characters breathe with remarkable life, and her narrative has tremendous flow. She draws equally well from legend and her own creativity. Her only flaw in "War for the Oaks" is that she is not quite sure of herself in her climactic scenes, which causes some slight confusion. For a novelist in her early phases this is a mere quibble. "War for the Oaks" is one of the best fantasy stories of its time, and has already become a classic of the genre.
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.
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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