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War for the Oaks    by Emma Bull order for
War for the Oaks
by Emma Bull
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2004 (1987)
Softcover, Paperback

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Though I read and enjoyed War for the Oaks when it was originally published, this early urban fantasy is just as good the second time around. It opens as lead singer/guitarist Eddi McCandry ditches her whining boyfriend, Stuart, and his band on the same evening. Her best friend, Carla DiAmato (a drummer), also gives up on 'InKline Plain' - they never liked the name anyway.

It turns out to be an eventful night altogether. On the way home, Eddi has an encounter with the 'Fair Folk' - a 'glaistig' (water woman) and a 'phouka' (who can take the form of a large dog). They inform her that she's been selected to participate in the Seelie Court's upcoming war with the Unseelie - a human catalyst is needed to bring mortality to the battlefield. While waiting for the war to start, the phouka sticks around as Eddi's unwanted bodyguard - he turns out to be useful when the Unseelie start trying to dispose of her.

Their relationship and banter is entertaining, and evolves over time to friendship and perhaps more. The phouka has his own agenda, one unlikely to meet with his Queen's approval, and the Seelie Court is riddled with spies. In parallel with the looming war, Eddi and Carla decide to start their own band, and are soon joined by Dan (a friend of Carla's), super-shy Hedge, and tall, green-eyed Willy Silver, for whom Eddi falls hard and fast.

When the war begins, Eddi shows her mettle and plays more than the role intended for her. And Emma Bull introduces several twists in an already interesting plotline, to imperil those closest to Eddi, who must ultimately make magic with her music to defend her friends. Angered that 'Death had won all night, and would do it again, on and on at every battlefield ...', Eddi stands for what is right, and teaches both fairy Queens much needed lessons.

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