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War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

War for the Oaks (original 1987; edition 2001)

by Emma Bull

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2,149833,032 (4.09)223
Title:War for the Oaks
Authors:Emma Bull
Info:New York : Orb Books. - 336 p Copyright 1987, 2001
Collections:Your library, Gelezen (van Mijn boeken), ff-leesclub discussie, Foreign Fantasy discussieboek, ff-leesclub challenge

Work details

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull (1987)

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    The Sun, the Moon, and the Stars by Steven Brust (Herenya)
    Herenya: Both are set in the late 80s, about artists trying to make a living from their art. There the similarities between the two books end, perhaps... but I can imagine Greg and friends going to listen to Eddi's band.
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First published in 1987, War for the Oaks is one of the pioneers of the urban fantasy genre. On the night that Eddi McCandry breaks up with her boyfriend and leaves his band, she has a run in with the fey. Turns out, she’s been chosen as a pawn in the war between the Seelie and Unseelie courts.

War for the Oaks draws upon what’s nowadays fairly familiar aspects of fairy folklore. The Seelie and Unseelie courts, the fey’s love of mortal musicians, creatures such as brownies and phoukas, and so on. However, the story focuses just as much on Eddie forming a new band as it does on her role in the fairy war.

Music plays a huge role in War for the Oaks. Eddi’s life revolves around music and creating music. I’m not much of a music person (to the point where I rarely listen to it on my own), so I think it’s a testament to the strength of Bull’s writing that I enjoyed these sections as much as I did. Let me be clear – I found War for the Oaks excellently written. The descriptions were lush and vibrant, and the dialog snappy.

I’m the wrong generation to have eighties nostalgia, but War for the Oaks did remind me of the eighties movies I’ve seen. Obviously, none of the musical references outdated 1987, but there were also a lot of descriptions of clothes that seem specific to the era. It’s not exactly specific to the time period, but there was also a bit of casual background racism, and Eddie just accepted that Stuart would react violently to the breakup.

My favorite character by far is the phouka, a shapeshifter who turns from man to dog. He’s exuberant and flamboyant, and his dialog for some reason reminds me of a Shakespearean play. I realize only now that I never became strongly attached to Eddie herself, although I did like her friendship with Carla, the drummer in her band. Maybe it’s because so much of Eddie’s life revolves around her music that it’s hard to get a sense of her outside of that?

The climax of the book felt like it was over with very quickly. It was also a lot more vaguely mystical than the rest of the book, in a way that reminds me of Robin McKinley’s writing.

I’d really like to know more about the influence War for the Oaks had on the genre. I know it was one of the very first urban fantasy novels, and I can clearly see it’s touch in books like Holly Black’s Tithe. If anyone ever comes across some sort of essay on the subject, I would love to read it.

I don’t think War for the Oaks will feel particularly novel to anyone familiar with fairies in today’s urban fantasy. However, I’d still suggest it as a well written example of the genre and to anyone interested in a fantasy book centering on music.

Originally posted on The Illustrated Page. ( )
  pwaites | May 4, 2016 |
A solid 3 stars. I was hoping for more after hearing so much about this book and its importance to the genre. It was fun and captivating, but a few things got under my skin that kept it from being a truly exceptional story.
Even though music was a big part of the story, I thought the descriptions of it took me away from what was going on. Maybe just a little too technical for my taste?
A large part that I thought was lacking was the history and/or the description of the Fae/magical realm. The beginning time that Eddi spent with the phouka seemed far too accepting on Eddi's part. I really thought she would have had many more questions about this newly found magical realm. I know I did.
I'm glad I finally read it. It was enjoyable, but I don't think I would have continued if there were more titles that followed. ( )
  beertraveler | Feb 5, 2016 |
Library doesn't have it in the system. 1/19/09
  emblue | Jan 3, 2016 |
That was freaking amazing, and there are quite a few reasons why.
First of all, Emma Bull is one of the pioneers of urban fantasy. This book was written in 1987 and largely influenced the shaping of UF as it is today.

Secondly, this is about a musician getting stuck between two Courts of Fey. I can't tell you how I love stories about musicians or dancers in urban fantasy or any paranormal book. The tradition connecting any type of artist to fae is very old, and Emma Bull certainly used it very well. But she also actually was in few bands herself. How awesome is that? The woman certainly knew what she was writing about.

The story is just wonderful. There is love and death, and beautiful magic drawn from music and songs of Eddi and her band. Eddi is not a typical UF character. She is not super powerful and tough or brainless and angsty. She is wry and sharp and tries to do her best by her friends. And there are fabulous music choices and vintage clothes.

There is a curious character of Phouka, who guards Eddi day and night and calls her "my primrose". There are fabulous members of the band - Hedge and Willy Silver and Carla and Dan... There are fey looking like they just stepped out from The Labyrinth (hey, I liked that film!).

The ending made me teary-eyed, maybe because I was listening to Sailing to Byzantium by Lisa Gerrard, and it just became one profound experience.

Despite that it's not the best UF I've ever read it has this undeniable charm, something really wonderful that made a huge impression on me.

( )
  kara-karina | Nov 20, 2015 |
Urban fantasy was my drug of choice in high school. Before Goodreads and phenomenal English teachers took their toll on my ignorant bliss, I was perfectly content to base my reading choices on cover designs and dust jacket flaps, the key to my satisfactions being that perfect blend of concrete grit and fantastical malevolence. My tastes will never return to that simplicity, but rather than using that as a reason for forgoing the genre entirely, I chose to feed a favorable looking work to my far more complex quotas. At best, I'd be pleasantly surprised. At worst, my critiquing skills would be left thoroughly honed. Either way, I was confident I'd enjoy myself, on the knee jerk gut level if nothing else.

I was right about the enjoyment part. However much I complain about stock plots and character tropes and the all too common utilization of burgeoning romance to drive the narrative and stopping just before commitment and faithfulness and all that uglier relationship jazz kicks in (love is so unsexy when it lasts forever on), it wasn't too long ago that I flat out enjoyed such things with nary a quibble. Also, I am such a sucker for snark it's embarrassing, and this book reveled in it.

What I didn't expect is to find a perfect example of feminism in all its imperfections. Here we have a female character slam dunking the Bechdel test, but pinning all the real worth and character development on the way men perceive her. She promotes understanding and nonviolence, but only when provoked by external circumstances in a very level-up Mary Sue manner (fits every situation once the situation reveals itself in a dramatic enough manner). Persons of color exist, but so does a great deal of casual racism, culminating in an endnote describing the author adapting the book for a movie and choosing to cut one of the persons of color in favor of expanding two white male character narratives (predictable culmination, anyone?). In short, female solidarity is actively developed (the book flat out talks about women's rights at one point), but there is no application of lessons learned in the development process to everyone else. Also, violence accepted as comeuppance for breaking up with a man. Ugh.

As for everything else. The fantasy was handled well, but compared to Clarke's complete and utter revitalization of the mythos in [Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell], there was nothing new to be found. Also worthy of mention is the fact that the '80's were before my time, so all accompanying references went over my head and had no favorable impact on my enjoyment. The Robert Jordan Syndrome, aka spending sizable paragraphs laying out character's outfits every few pages, a list description method that was applied to anything worthy of visualization to a frustratingly banal degree, didn't help either.

I did laugh, though. That's always good. ( )
1 vote Korrick | Jul 22, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Whenever I describe my Tufa novels, The Hum and the Shiver and the upcoming Wisp of a Thing, to potential readers, they immediately mention two literary antecedents. One is the Silver John stories and novels by Manly Wade Wellman, which I discussed here. The other is Emma Bull’s 1987 novel War for the Oaks. ... As with the Silver John stories, I now understand why people make the connection to my Tufa books. In this case, there are both musicians and faeries, and a sense that magic resides in music. But also as with Silver John, I think that similarity is mainly a surface one. Which, again as with Wellman’s tales, actually delights me, because it means I can enjoy War for the Oaks with a clear conscience.
added by legallypuzzled | editTor.com, Alex Bledsoe (pay site) (Apr 29, 2013)
In short ... I just can’t imagine anyone not liking War For the Oaks. It has everything you could possibly want in a book except pirates and space ships - and the phouka wears a sort of piratey ruffled shirt at one point so that partially covers the pirate angle. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s thought - provoking, and did I mention that it is sexy as hell? With all those significant glances and enigmatic statements and, oh yeah, some really hot, if not extremely explicit, sex? Just go read it; if you combine it with some good coffee and some good songs in the background, I can almost guarantee you the perfect day.
added by legallypuzzled | editsmart bithces, sb sarah (pay site) (May 2, 2011)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Emma Bullprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dringenberg, MikeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eshkar, ShelleyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hayden, Patrick NielsenEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Patrick, PamelaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Regina, Jane AdeleDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Windling, TerriEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book is for my mother,
who knew right away that the Beatles were important,
and for my father, who never once complained about the noise.
First words
By day, the Nicollet Mall winds through Minneapolis like a paved canal.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0765300346, Paperback)

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.

War for the Oaks won the Locus Magazine award for Best First Novel and was a finalist for the Mythopoeic Society Award. Other books by Emma Bull include the novels Falcon, Bone Dance (second honors, Philip K. Dick Award), Finder (a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award), and (with Stephen Brust) Freedom and Necessity; the collection Double Feature (with Will Shetterly); and the picture book The Princess and the Lord of Night. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:11 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Eddi McCandry, an unemployed Minneapolis rock singer, finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk.

(summary from another edition)

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