Saturday, 17 May 2008

War for the Oaks - Emma Bull

I’m really glad I came across this book. It sounded good, it looked good, it was recommended by Neil Gaiman. It was about fairies and rock and roll. It had to be good!
It took off slowly, because despite the great start, it takes a while to get into the story. But once you’re in it you would never want to get out.

This is the story of the singer and musician Eddi and how, one night, she finds herself unwillingly thrown in between a fairy war. The Seelie and the Unseelie Court are about to start their seasonal field battles, but they need a human to do it. Without, they wouldn’t be able to kill each other, while a human presence would allow the spilling of blood on both parts. That’s what the Phouka tells Eddi, after having moved into her house and declared himself her bodyguard. Eddi doesn’t have much choice in the matter. Someone has already chosen for her, and nothing she does or says can get rid of him. So now she is stuck with a Phouka who can change into a dog and looks like Prince, while her band has just fallen apart and her boyfriend has decided to act like a complete idiot.
Likely, she has her friend Carla, who smokes like a chimney, but is always there when she needs her.
The story for me started to get interesting when Eddi, following the Phouka’s advice, decides to start a new band. That’s when I realise that this book was as much about music as it was about fairy wars. In fact, music is a key element in the story, not just a background addition. Some of the best-written scenes are music scenes. I had to use youtube a lot to help me with the song references because I didn’t know any of them! David Bowie, Joan Jett, Prince, Kim Carnes… You can definitely feel that it was written in the 80’s.
But even if you don’t know the music, you can still enjoy the writing..

Then, in precisely the right place, the bass came in. It began as if the Rocky Mountains had begun to walk. It sounded like the voice of the magma under the earth’s crust, and it picked up the whole song and rolled it forward like water exploding out of a breaking dam. They were suddenly tight, all four of them, as if they were a single animal and that monster heartbeat was their own

Emma Bull constantly surprised me with her way of finding new ways of describing things and emotions. Her writing was lyric, funny and moving, always at the right times. Her description of the Folks was really believable, so detailed and rich, that it wasn’t hard to picture them in my mind.
But what I loved most was probably the Phouka. I loved his chivalry, his courtly manners, his “humanity”, his sense of humour. I would have loved to have him as a bodyguard…
It’s true, though, that I loved all the main characters, and even some of the side ones, like Meg the brownie. I was really sad to part from them at the end.

This is one of the first examples of Urban Fantasy and it deserves to be read just for that. But it’s so much more. It’s rock and roll, romance, magic, battles, surprises, fun. It’s everything I want from a book.
This edition has also an introduction written by Emma Bull herself, about the futility of introductions and about what this book means to her. There’s also an appendix with the screenplay. Because it’s true, it would make such a good movie!

other blog reviews:
needs more demons or not
Eloisa and James


Ana S. said...

Oooh, I didn't know Neil Gaiman recommended this one! With that and your review, how can I resist?

Anonymous said...

Great review, you're one of only three or four people I've come across who have read this wonderful book! You should put Emma's novel "Bone Dance" on your list - it has a similar feel to "War for the Oaks".
. . . and just for fun, check out the teaser for the yet to be completed film version of "WOTO" (produced by Emma and her husband):

valentina said...

Nymeth, I really wish u read this soon cause I'm really curious of what you would think of it!

ken, I know, it's incredible how this book is not more as popular as it deserves to be.
Bone Dance..I'll remember that, thanks for the recommendation:)
Those trailers are really cheesy but fun!!