I was saying recently that I used to be a big re-reader. In fact, almost all my reading used to consist of re-reading old favorites over and over again. After college, and especially since I started blogging, however, I’ve had a much more urgent sense of how much wonderful literature there is out there yet for me to discover, and I’ve done much, much less re-reading, almost to the vanishing point. Sometimes, though, a book just itches at me, and eventually, no matter how long my TBR list, I have to give in. This time, that was War for the Oaks, by Emma Bull.
Eddi McCandry is a great musician in a terrible band that’s just broken up, partly because she’s breaking up with her boyfriend, the lead guitarist. Depressed about the prospect of finding a day job, she’s wandering home through the night streets of Minneapolis, when a nightmare begins: a huge dog chases her, seeming to foresee her every move; she slips and hits her head; and when she wakes up, the dog has… changed into a man. A phouka, to be precise (you may remember the term from the film Harvey, where the phouka was a six-foot-tall rabbit.)
Phouka (that’s his name as well as his… species, for lack of a better word) informs Eddi that she has been chosen for mortal stakes. In the ongoing war between the good and the bad faerie kind, the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts, no wounds are fatal unless mortal blood is bound to the battlefield. Eddi will provide that blood, and Phouka will be her bodyguard, to be certain that she lives to see the day of battle. Eddi’s protests and attempts at escape are fruitless, and she meets the Queen of Faerie face to face, knowing that she can only use truth and intelligence as weapons, for whatever good they will do her in that inverted world.
But Faerie is not the only world that concerns Eddi. She’s also putting together a band (and I love the name, but it should be a surprise.) The descriptions of her music, of what it’s like to rock out with other people who are really good at what they do, are one of the best things about this book. There are actually a lot of great things about this book — the clashing personalities, the humor, the frightening battle scenes, Hairy Meg the brownie, Minneapolis as a character — but the thing I love best, the thing that makes it shiveringly great, is the romance. I won’t tell you with whom.
When I went to re-read this, I wasn’t sure it would stand up. I haven’t read it for at least nine or ten years. I thought it might be dated or cheesy (and, well, the clothes are, but it was written in 1987, what do you expect?), and then I’d be embarrassed to tell you all about it. But thank goodness, I loved it as much as I did the first time. This is a piece of urban fantasy worth checking out no matter what you usually read. Delicious.