My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“War for the Oaks” is often mentioned as one of the first real “urban fantasy” novels. After reading it, I can see why; a) it’s brilliant, and b) I can think of at least three novels off the top of my head that must have been “inspired” by it.
There’s a lot here that will be familiar to long-time urban fantasy readers. The thing to keep in mind is that Emma Bull isn’t falling back on the cliches, she’s creating them. Our heroine, Eddi, is a struggling rock musician. Her boyfriend’s band plays mostly dive bars, in which inexplicably-a-jerk boyfriend Stuart thinks he’s too good to play. In a solitary evening, Eddi manages to quit the band, dump the boyfriend, get swept into a war between the Seelie and Unseelie fairy courts, and pick up a phouka as a bodyguard. Because, you know, that’s just how she rolls.
Thankfully, Bull stays away from the triteness that plagues modern urban fantasy. Eddi isn’t perfect; she drinks too much and falls into bed with men too quickly, but she also doesn’t have so many flaws that you can’t get into her character. She also has believable reactions to the turn her life has taken; neither so accommodating and laid-back that it’s unrealistic, or so whiny and freaked-out that it’s obnoxious.
Eddi has been drafted to bring mortality to this fairy war. Without the presence of a mortal on the battlefield, their fight is little more than an exercise in futility; with Eddi there, however, her mortality spreads to the rest of them. Lives may be lost, but (more importantly) power may be gained.
Of course, there’s also Eddi’s brand-new band to manage, her jerky (and increasingly crazy) ex-boyfriend to avoid, and her enigmatic, breakfast-cooking phouka bodyguard/surprise roommate to figure out.
A must-read for anyone who loves urban fantasy, and is tired of the crap that’s coming out these days.