War for the Oaks

Eddi McCandry was already having a bad day what with both her band and her relationship breaking up, but then she’s chased down by a giant black dog and when she wakes up, she finds herself in the company of the dog (who talks!) and a woman made from water. The dog is a phouka, who can take the form of dog or man, and the water woman is queen of the Seelie Court. They’ve chosen Eddi to be the mortal witness of their upcoming battle with the Unseelie Court. As a mortal, her presence will make the battle matter because she will make it possible for the immortal faerie creatures to die. Until the battle, the Phouka will be keeping watch over Eddi. And she keeps busy by starting a new band and, perhaps, a new relationship.

So what we have here is a rock and roll faerie novel. Emma Bull uses music to create her world and makes it just as much a magical force as anything the fey creatures can do. And the faerie world is not exactly something to fear; it’s more that it’s different and operates by rules humans won’t naturally understand. But there are rules and customs, and the Phouka introduces Eddi to them as the day for the battle approaches.

What makes the book work is its characters. It’s fun to watch Eddi and the Phouka go from suspicion and irritation to friendship and affection. And watching a team come together is almost always a pleasure, so I enjoyed seeing Eddi’s new band form. The characterization was sometimes a little strained — a couple of the incidental characters are given one characteristic that Bull leans on in way that feels like an attempt to give them life but ends up making them seem one-dimensional. But most of the characters are enjoyably complex, and they’re almost all likable. This is a book where people encounter magic and just sort of go with it, which is also something that I like.

The story took a few unexpected turns, and one relationship goes in a direction I really didn’t expect but sort of wanted because the direction I thought the story was going to take seemed tired and a little ridiculous. There are several intense action scenes, but they go by fast. The book is really all about the people and the music. The faerie war is important, but it’s also a distraction from the lives these characters want to live. It’s a fun book about likable people trying to live a good life. Who doesn’t need a book like that?

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6 Responses to War for the Oaks

  1. Jenny says:

    I love this book. It’s so fun and satisfying. I agree with you that the way Eddi just rolls with her new perspective is a good part of the novel; she doesn’t spend a lot of time sputtering.

    • Teresa says:

      What else is there to do but roll with it, really? And it’s definitely more interesting to read than a lot of fretting about the unreality of it would have been.

  2. That’s my memory of this book too! I recently got a hardback copy of this book on PaperbackSwap, and I’m really looking forward to rereading it. I also got a copy of Territory by Emma Bull at a used bookstore recently, so I gotta plan a mini-Emma Bull marathon.

  3. schmootc says:

    I’d forgotten about this book until I saw your review, but I remember loving it! It’s one of the first urban fantasy books I ever read, back when they weren’t a dime and dozen and it’s a real gem.

    • Teresa says:

      I read somewhere that some people consider this the first urban fantasy. I can’t really figure out the fine distinctions between subgenres, so I don’t know what else I’ve read in the genre, but this felt fun and fresh to me.

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