ISBN: 0-441-87073-2 Order from: Amazon.com
A remarkably enjoyable novel of fairy wars in a modern setting, with a likable hero and fresh approach.
Reviewed by David on May 09, 1998
Genre: Fantasy (Urban Fantasy, Elfpunk, Music)
Synopsis: An old tale of an artist, or in this case a musician/poet, being kidnapped by the Faerie, is set in modern Minneapolis. A young woman, out of work due to her band break-up, ends up being drafted by the Seelie Court (the good guys) to help fight the endless war against the Unseelie Court. Not particularly happy to be drafted by anyone, her struggles in the war, and against the war are assisted, and complicated by her relationships, both mortal and fey.
Full Review: For ages, the Faerie kingdoms have coexisted with the humans. They have loved and played and fought unseen by any mortal eyes except those few gifted with the Sight.
In all their varieties, from the brownies and the goblins, to the High Sidhe and their courts, their powers and immortality make them look with contempt at the evanescent human lives around them. Yet along with their all-too-human arrogance, they share another trait with the mortal race—the love of beauty. For all their remarkable powers of illusion, the ability to create something truly original has all but vanished among the fey. And so, the occasional spark of creative genius among the humans draws them like a magnet.
Eddie McCandry is a songwriter/guitarist looking for work in Minneapolis who is unfortunate enough to attract the attention of the Faerie. However, there is a darker purpose in their attention: the unending war between the Seelie and the Unseelie Courts is about to escalate to a battle for Minneappolis, and the human gift or curse of mortality can be shared, for a time, with the fey. The ability to kill, or be killed, is what distinguishes a true Faerie battle from a minor territorial squabble.
Eddie is reluctantly drawn into the conflict. Not one to take anyone's direction gladly, she is certainly not eager to enlist in someone else's battle. Faced with the very real prospect of injury or death in someone else's war, she is not particularly happy to be drafted by a phouka, a shape-shifter of the Seelie Court:
"[The Unseelie Court] laid claim to a territory of ours," he went on, in a voice edged with satire. "We've resolved to water it with their blood."Unfortunately, Eddie has to do more than referee. And when her closest friends get drawn into the conflict, and some of the new allies become friends, Eddie brings her creativity and passion, the qualities that made her so attractive to the fey, to the conflict, while still trying to build her rock band and create music.
"That's nice." Eddie felt a queasy borboding. "What to you want me to do? Referee?"
. . . "Good. I hope you die to the last man—or elf."
This is one of the earlier urban fairy tales, and perhaps the best one. Charles DeLint has written several good ones, and Gael Baudino wrote Gossamer Axe, which is remarkably close to War for the Oaks in plot. In my opinion, Bull's novel is superior. The characters are very likable, both Eddie and the supporting cast. Both the music and the city of Minneapolis are drawn with skill and affection that make one long to experience them directly. The fairy courts add cruelty and beauty, honor and loss to this urban fantasy. One is left with the sense of magic in both the mortal and the Faerie worlds. I would certainly enjoy reading a sequel, although none is required.
This book is highly recommended. Bull is not prolific. She published several novels since War for the Oaks: Falcon, which may have actually been written first, and about which the less is said the better; Bone Dance, a good post-apocalypse science fiction novel with some voodoo elements; and Finder, a Borderlands shared-world fantasy, with some remarkable (and poignant) observations on the fairy/human relations and the fragility of beauty. She also co-authored Freedom and Necessity with Brust and edited several books with her husband, Will Shetterly. This book, however, is the best of them. It is out of print right now, although it may be on the shelves in some stores; otherwise, it is well-worth looking for in the used book places.
Welcome News! This excellent book will be reprinted by Tor in July 2001. You can order this new edition of War for the Oaks at Amazon.com.
Overall: 9; Plot: 8; Characters: 9; Style: 8; World-building: 6; Originality: 7;
Ace, 1987, Mass-market, 309 pages
ISBN: 0-441-87073-2 Order from: Amazon.com