Free ePUB War for the OaksAuthor Emma Bull –

Acclaimed by critics and readers on its first publication in , winner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel, Emma Bull's War for the Oaks is one of the novels that has defined modern urban fantasyEddi McCandry sings rock and roll But she's breaking up with her boyfriend, 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, than her own survival is at risk—and her own preferences, musical and personal, are very much beside the pointBy turns tough and lyrical, fabulous and downtoearth, War for the Oaks is a fantasy novel that's as much about this world as about the other one It's about real love and loyalty, about real music and musicians, about false glamour and true art It will change the way you hear and see your own daily life

10 thoughts on “War for the Oaks

  1. Felicia Felicia says:

    Oops I was browsing the recommended because of your shelf listings and I noticed that this book was not on my lists?! In fact, not on my FAVORITE SHELVES list? I've read it about 4 times so GET ON MY SHELF!

    This book was written years before the trend of paranormal romance faerie crossing into urban environment became commonplace. If you want to see one of the books that probably helped start ALL this paranormal stuff, here it is. GREAT book for girls and boys alike. I have it in 3 different versions, one day I'll get it signed :)

  2. ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) ✘✘ Sarah ✘✘ (former Nefarious Breeder of Murderous Crustaceans) says:

    💀 DNF at 44%.

    Let’s see, what can I tell you about this wonderfully captivating book, apart from the fact that it’s supposed to be a pioneer of the Urban Fantasy genre? (view spoiler)[ I’m assuming that whoever said this didn’t have that kind of pioneer in mind when they made that particularly canny assertion. Then again, who knows? (hide spoiler)]

  3. Sandi Sandi says:

    I didn't know what to expect when I ordered a copy of War for the Oaks for one of my GoodReads group. Right now, I have way too many books to read and not enough time to read them. I certainly didn't expect that I'd find a book that I had a hard time putting down and ended up finishing in two days.

    As I understand it, War for the Oaks is an early example of urban fantasy. What wonderful urban fantasy it was. I loved the adventure and romanticism, the music and the fairies (don't call them that). Popular music plays a central role in this book. I've read quite a few books that try to integrate rock & roll, but they usually end up being really, really cheesy and imbued with that isn't it cool to be a rock star tone. In this case, music and the rock scene is simply a part of Eddi's life and Ms. Bull handles it very well. A few things do make the story a bit dated, like some clothing descriptions and the constant references to how hot Prince is. (I never thought he was.) But, most of the story manages to avoid most things that would make it seem exceptionally dated.

    Now, it's really possible that this book doesn't deserve five stars. In fact it's quite likely it doesn't. But, I gave it the highest rating because I loved it and it was great escapism. One warning: this is chick lit. I can't see much here that would appeal to most guys. But, I'm a girl and I liked it.

  4. Aubrey Aubrey says:

    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.

  5. Mimi Mimi says:

    So this is the book that kicked off Urban Fantasy?

    It was OK, just OK. The narration is somewhat annoying, which makes the characters somewhat annoying, but the action sequences make up for that. I can't fault this book too much, though, since it's the first its kind and therefore, like most pioneering writing pieces, reads more like a lengthy writing exercise than a book.

    The story is about a young woman with great musical aspirations--she wants to start her own band—who stumbles across a fae war and gets recruited. She does get to put a band together all the while helping her fae friends take back—and this is where I can't stop laughing—Minnehaha Falls for the fae court. It's one thing to read about other cities getting bombarded with and pillaged by otherworldly creatures, but it's another thing entirely to read about your own hometown as a battleground.

    Since I mostly read stories set in far off places (and imaginary worlds), it's a little unsettling—in a good way—to dive into a book that features Minneapolis... as a secondary character. I would have to say the experience is similar to a mild episode of meta-awareness; you know you're reading, but you can't believe you recognize every landmark (and street corner) in the book. Who woulda thunk Nicollet Mall is actually a bridge between our world and the fae's? Or that fae factions used to duke it out every night right across the street from where I used to live?

    Urban fantasy has come so far from its origins that reading this book is like examining a piece of relic recently unearthed from some lost burial ground. It's always interesting to read the book that started it all.

  6. The Flooze The Flooze says:

    War for the Oaks has the distinction of helping mold the subgenre of urban fantasy. Since I’ve already tackled many (many) UF titles, that particular context is lost on me. What can’t be denied, however, is Emma Bull’s talent. War for the Oaks is an excellent example of everything I’ve come to love about the fusion of modernity and magic.

    The main character, Eddi McCandry, is a blend of all we hope for in a heroine. In the beginning she exhibits a bit of poor judgment and has a tendency to underestimate herself, but over the course of the book she grows and learns. We come to see her as a straight-shooter with an abundance of fierce determination, a woman who tries to fight for what’s right and inspires those around her to do the same. She’s a likeable character and a true friend, a person who believes in free will and accepting consequences.

    The characters surrounding her are each notable in their own ways, but none moreso than the Phouka. Assigned as her bodyguard, he’s often mischief made real - but it’s clear from the beginning that there’s a lot more to him than clever quips and keen fighting skills. He’s enigmatic and eccentric, but endearing; it’s easy to share in Eddi’s growing trust in him.

    Many of the powers of the Fae are not clearly defined; Bull picks and chooses which rules to share, so the plot can glide along without the burden of weighty details. She demonstrates respect towards her readers, trusting that we are intelligent enough to pick things up along the way. In light of all the clue-by-fours and info dumps I’ve been subjected to lately, I’m immensely grateful for her polished method of delivery.

    (I do wonder how this came across to the audience of 1987. Bull uses much of the Fae lore we now find commonplace: the Sidhe lords, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, the Lady vs. the Queen of Air and Darkness, the talent of twisting the truth yet never lying. Today’s UF readers are accustomed to these beings and the basic rules that govern them. Would this have seemed more ground-breaking, perhaps more confusing, to her initial readers?)

    Bull’s writing style is pleasant. It’s lyrical and fluid, but never flowery or overcomplicated. Her analogies are marvelous - almost undetectable as they cast the desired atmosphere over a scene. They evoke sensory experiences, drawing us fully into Eddi’s perception and fostering a connection with the settings and characters. Bull understands that small details are often the most significant. She uses this knowledge to greatest effect when describing how two people fall in love: through moments of stillness and unconscious gestures, she recounts the many tiny thrills along the way. This leads to one of my favorite passages:

    “Every motion she made was slow, as if she’d never before put her arms around a man, and didn’t know for certain where everything fit. When at last they were pressed close, she didn’t think she’d know how to let go when the time came. They summarized the course of passion with kisses: a chaste, half-frightened brush of the lips metamorphosed into something fierce and fast-burning, which in its turn became a more patient, more intimate touch, full of inquiry and shared pleasure.”

    It’s romance that a person who’s experienced love can relate to. It’s the hesitancy and wonder that washes over us in that moment we decide, “yes…this is the one.” To capture it in such a way makes it all the more sweet and realistic.

    This down-to-earth style is a defining aspect of the book…which is why I have one complaint about the ending. While every proceeding scene - even those dealing with Fae illusion - is so straight-forward and comprehensible, the final battle lapses into the abstract. We understand what’s happening in the larger scheme, but the particulars are lost amid the frenzy of magic. Having felt so connected to the action until this point, it came as an unpleasant shock to suddenly feel distant from events. I’m not sure if this indicates a hasty wrap-up, or merely my own inability to relate to what Eddi experiences. I wasn’t dissatisfied, but the scene didn’t mesh perfectly with the rest of the story.

    That one criticism aside, War for the Oaks is a well-executed book. It’s easy to see how its release in the late 80s would have encouraged acknowledgement of the urban fantasy subgenre. Reading it now, 24 years(!) after it was first published, it doesn’t feel particularly dated (even some of the clothes are back in fashion again). Instead, it’s as thrilling a stand-alone as any current title, with an effortless poetic slant and a fluidity that’s missing from many of today’s debuts. It’s touted as an urban fantasy classic - it’s more than deserving of the label.

  7. JM JM says:

    Adult fey urban fantasy. Eddi, a singer/electric guitarist living in Minneapolis, finds herself chosen by the Seelie Court for a job nobody would be especially keen on: the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, whose queens are resident in Minneapolis for reasons that are never quite addressed, are declaring a war for the city. They need a mortal to make the stakes mortal ones.

    This is a classic of the genre. I read it immediately after Robin McKinley's Sunshine, which frustrated me to pieces, and my first reaction to this was: Oh thank god, yay. It has a lot of elements that are simply awesome. The Phouka is a really fantastic character, especially in his early scenes, and the descriptions of the fey folk themselves are lively and convincing and imaginative. Possibly the best thing about the book is the use of music, though. Eddi's band is central to the action and ultimately to the plot, and the most powerful scenes are the ones in which they're playing and Eddi's feeling the chords slide and wail around her. It's tricky to infuse a written work with a sense of music, the emotions and the sounds-as-images, so I have huge respect for the way Bull pulled it off.

    But ultimately this book wasn't as successful as I wanted it to be. The main reason is, again, the main character. Everybody around her believes that Eddi has something special, she's electric and charismatic and no wonder the fey folk chose her. But Bull never really managed to convey that electricity and charisma. Eddi drives a good bit of the plot, she's not a passive presence, but she's simply not very compelling as a protagonist. Except when she's playing, and even then it's more that she lets us inside the dynamic of the band.

    The other problem I had was with the stakes. I didn't really care about the outcome of the faerie war. The battle scenes didn't catch me up. At the end something happens to make this battle personal - one of the central characters is in danger. But ... I didn't care about that character either. They weren't introduced in an especially sympathetic way, and they were never developed enough to make up for it. What really drove the story wasn't the faery war, but the romance. The romance is resolved about two thirds of the way through, though, and after that ... well, I finished the book, and I enjoyed the descriptions and the little details of the world, but I wasn't invested much.

  8. Mark Mark says:

    Part of the problem might be that I went into this book with unrealistically high expectations. I’d been aware of War for the Oaks for a long time before reading it, and I knew it was considered an influential classic of the Urban Fantasy genre. Because of this, I’d already (perhaps unfairly) assigned it some kind of legendary status in my mind. But, just because something is among the first doesn’t mean it is among the best; after finishing this, I was left feeling underwhelmed.

    The book certainly does have its good points. The music scene backdrop was fun and at times refreshing; the Fae had an otherworldly feel to them which was interesting to read about; and the prose itself was skillfully written.

    But for me, it always comes down to the characters. I couldn’t feel any attachment to them… and therefore I had no emotional engagement whatsoever with this book.

    I also felt the novel was really slowly-paced. This isn’t always a bad thing depending on the story, but in this case it often seemed like a chore just to push through to the next chapter.

    This might be excellent for the right reader, but it wasn’t for me. I’m glad I read it though, if only as a historical entry in exploring the roots of Urban Fantasy.

  9. Nicky Nicky says:

    Reading this was like meeting the grandmother of October Daye and Kate Daniels. Knowing it was one of the early books to really make urban fantasy a thing, per Naomi Alderman’s introduction, it’s amazing how fresh it must have felt back then — it stood up pretty well now, but I found some aspects of it predictable because I know later books in the genre. So many of the elements were in place as far back as this. I had a lot of fun, and the descriptions of Eddi’s band and the way they play, the fun they have, are really infectious. It’s surprisingly vivid, even for me (and I don’t have a visual imagination at all!).

    Likewise, the plot with Faerie and even the character arc of the phouka are all fairly obvious if you’ve been hanging around in urban fantasy — but it’s still well done and Bull does a great job of making her faeries genuinely strange, genuinely different to the humans they interact with.

    All in all, a lot of fun, and I recommend it, especially for those who enjoy urban fantasy, but not only for them!

  10. Amanda Amanda says:

    This book has been popping up on my Amazon recommendations list for probably a year now. That, combined with the fact that there's a quote on front in which Neil Gaiman states, Emma Bull is really good (which may seem scant praise, but is everything to a Gaiman fan), I finally decided to just go ahead and order it. After reading it, I concur with Mr. Gaiman--Emma Bull is really good. An urban fantasy set in the 1980's, Bull takes full advantage of the time period by showcasing the music and the lavish, ridiculously wonderful over-the-top 1980's clothing (really, other than perhaps the Glam Rock period of the 1970's, there's no other time period in which a story such as this would work to such effect). Eddi is a musician chosen by the fey to be the mortal who will bring death to the battlefield in the Seelie Court's battle against the Unseelie Court (who will bring darkness and gloom to the city should they triumph). Bull draws heavily on the folktales of Ireland and Scotland and her faeries are wonderful creatures--seldom completely good or evil, but always looking to bend events to their favor with no regard to the consequences brought upon others. My favorites include Hairy Meg (a brownie from Scotland who brought her thick brogue and cantankerous temper with her) and the hilariously mischievous phouka who serves as Eddi's bodyguard. You can practically see these faeries as they may have been imagined by Jim Henson or Brian Froud. Overall, my only criticism is that the ending seemed a little anticlimatic (it did seem a little too easy to defeat the Queen of Air and Darkness) and shifts in time periods weren't always made clear. Other than that, an excellent book.