War for the Oaks by Emma Bull: 4.5/5
first published in 2001
War for the Oaks is a classic of the urban fantasy genre and for good reason: it's one of the best ever written. From Amazon:
Emma Bull's debut novel, War for the Oaks, placed her in the top tier of urban fantasists and established a new subgenre. Unlike most of the rock & rollin' fantasies that have ripped off Ms. Bull's concept, War for the Oaks is well worth reading. Intelligent and skillfully written, with sharply drawn, sympathetic characters, War for the Oaks is about love and loyalty, life and death, and creativity and sacrifice.
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.
The way Mrs. Bull portrays Minneapolis seems all too real even if the place is crawling with Fey. Her writing is solid and at her best when the phouka is trying Eddi's nerves. In fact, the interaction between the characters of Eddi and here friends, fey and mortal, are what ultimately sell the book for me. Sure, the Fey here act just as I like them, cruel and self-serving, but I found myself more immersed in the novel when the two main characters were simply talking rather than when the actual war was taking place. Thankfully there is little figthing and most of the novel is spend with Eddi trying to get used to the idea that she is now caught in the middle of the Fae wars, with her trying to put a band together and having to deal with the ever present, always infuriating phouka. Their banter is witty and I found myself laughing out loud more times than I could count.
On the downside the end does seem kind of soap-opera like and, IMO, doesn't go well with the rest of the novel but everything else fits so well it hardly matters. I guess I was expecting a bit more omph from an actual war and the final "duel" felt a tad too cheesy. Nonetheless I highly recommend this book and I daresay it's a good way for romance lovers to break into the fantasy genre.
If you, like myself, are not an 80's fan don't think that will stop you from loving this book. I simply skipped or skimmed pop culture references [mostly songs] and dressed the characters in my head rather than go by what the book described. If you haven't read it yet I suggest you march down to your local library or your closet Barnes & Nobles and get your hands on this classic now. You won't regret it.
A solid 4.5 out of 5!