#Fridaybookshare – War for the Oaks by Emma Bull #Book Review

This is my first attempt at a #Fridaybookshare review so I hope I get all the right bits in and hopefully in something like the right order.  Here we go…

War for the Oaks is urban fantasy with a touch of romance.

First line: By day, the Nicollet Mall winds through Minneapolis like a paved canal.

Recruit fans by adding the book blurb:

Eddi McCandry sings rock and roll. But her boyfriend just dumped her, her band just broke up, and life could hardly be worse. Then, walking home through downtown Minneapolis on a dark night, she finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk. Now, more than her own survival is at risk-and her own preferences, musical and personal, are very much beside the point.

War for the Oaks is a brilliantly entertaining fantasy novel that’s as much about this world as about the imagined one.

Introduce the main character using only three words (which will be a challenge for me as brevity is not my strong point): Eddi McCandry is brave, determined and sassy.

Cover: I read the 2001 paperback version which has a less than enticing cover but I’m delighted that the book will be reissued by Penguin next month as an e-book and paperback with this rather cool cover.

War for the Oaks

Audience appeal: This book will appeal to anyone who likes fantasy, particularly urban fantasy.  But if you’re not sure you’re a fantasy fan and you’ve enjoyed watching TV programmes like Buffy or Supernatural then it’s worth giving this a try because I think there’s a really good chance you’ll love it.

My favourite line/scene:
Carla came out from behind Dan’s chair, walked over, took hold of Eddi’s shoulders, and gave a little shake.  “And then there’s my best friend. Friendship comes from shared experience, right? So what am I supposed to say when my mother wants to know why I don’t hang around with you anymore? ‘Oh you know. She got a little fey and we just drifted apart.’”

Eddi shook her head. “I don’t want to have to say that I got a little fey, and you got a little dead.”

Carla looked down, and shrugged.  “Well, neither do I. But this is a party. If there’s a truce on, it’s safer than a lot of parties I’ve been to.”

My review:

A friend recommended this book to me and it’s a sign of how much I trust her taste in books that I ordered a second hand paperback version which had to be shipped from America.  But I’m so glad I did.  War for the Oaks is one of the first urban fantasy novels.  People far more knowledgeable than me about the history of fantasy, credit it and Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman as the books which started the genre.  For that reason there’s much that’s familiar about the book because more recent authors have borrowed and built on what Emma Bull created.  I wish I could have read it in 1984 when it was new and incredibly different from what had gone before.

The book starts quite slowly but please don’t let that put you off.  The prologue sets the scene in Minneapolis which, in true urban fantasy fashion, almost becomes another character in the book.  It also introduces the magic of the Fae that infiltrates our world.  When we meet Eddi McCandry she’s just dumped her lousy boyfriend and left the rock band he runs.  Then she meets the phouka and things get much more complicated as Eddi gets recruited into the war between the Fae.  Her mortal blood ups the stakes and means even the immortal Fae can die in battle.  It also lands her with the phouka as houseguest and bodyguard which she’s completely unimpressed by.  But Eddi’s not the kind of girl to let the intrusion of the Fae in her life get her down for long.  Determined to start a new band with best friend, Carla, she meets the very gorgeous Willie Silver who plays lead guitar and Hedge who’s a bass player.  With the new band rehearsing and getting ready for their first few gigs, Eddi is completely unprepared when the war with the Fae spills out into her world and has a devastating impact on her life.

There’s so many things that I loved about this book that it’s hard to know where to start.  Eddi’s a kickass, smart, sassy heroine.  The dialogue is sharp and witty.  There’s lines like, “Who writes your dialogue? Lewis Carole?” which reminded me of the kind of beyond good dialogue you get in Buffy.  The Fae, both good and bad, are believably otherworldly creatures and yet with an edge of reality that made me care whether they lived or died.  Eddi’s life in the band and the ups and downs of being a professional musician are brilliantly described (probably because Emma Bull was a professional musician) and I love the way the music is woven through the story.   And, more than anything, it’s a great page turning read with a wonderfully satisfying ending.

In Emma Bull’s introduction to the 2001 version, she says “A book makes intimate friends with people its author will never meet.”  I felt like I met a new friend when I read War for the Oaks, that it is a novel that I will read again and again.  And that’s the best compliment I can give any book.

War for the Oaks is being reissued by Penguin on 29th September and you can pre-order a copy here


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