War for the Oaks

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Eddi McCandry used to be the lead singer in a rock band, until they broke up and her boyfriend dumped her. But her far-from-mundane life is about to be turned inside out--when she's drafted to fight a faerie war that needs a mortal to make it all too real. Reissue.
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War for the Oaks: A Novel

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Eddi McCandry used to be the lead singer in a rock band, until they broke up and her boyfriend dumped her. But her far-from-mundane life is about to be turned inside out--when she's drafted to fight a faerie war that needs a mortal to make it all too real. Reissue.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
An original blend of modern music and magic in a contemporary urban setting, Emma Bull's novel is exceptional in its portrayal of a faerie world that exists alongside our own. It's even more extraordinary for the way it manages to find magic in everyday life. Musician Eddi McCandry has reached a crossroads in her life. She just broke up with her boyfriend and has decided to quit the band she plays for. Things could be worse -- her boyfriend was a creep, and the band was mostly out of work -- but they could be better, too. Eddi's money is running low, and the idea of a regular job repels her. She seeks options, wondering whether it would better to abandon her hopes and dreams or risk it all for one last chance at stardom.

At this juncture there appears a phouka, a being that alternately assumes the form of a dog and a man. This fantastic -- and frequently annoying -- creature informs Eddi she's to play a vital role in the upcoming battle between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. The phouka turns Eddi's reality upside down just as she's trying to pull together the pieces of her life. And things are about to get even worse: A battle is meaningless without loss; victory in war is impossible when no one dies. Eddi Chandry is an ordinary mortal, chosen to bring her mortality to a battlefield of immortals -- and neither side is particularly happy about it. (Joel Feigenbaum)

From the Publisher
“A contemporary fantasy classic.”—Publishers Weekly

“Emma Bull is really good.”—Neil Gaiman

“One of the most engaging fantasies I’ve read in a long time.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Knifes through the fantasy genre like a sharp blade of wind.” —Charles de Lint

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780765300348
  • Publisher: Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC
  • Publication date: 7/6/2001
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 305,078
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Emma Bull was born in 1954 in Torrance, California. She is the author of Finder and Bone Dance in addition to War for the Oaks. She lives in Minneapolis, MN.

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Read an Excerpt


By day, the Nicollet Mall winds through Minneapolis like a paved canal. People flow between its banks, eddying at the doors of office towers and department stores. The big red-and-white city buses roar at every corner. On the many-globed lampposts, banners advertising a museum exhibit flap in the wind that the tallest buildings snatch out of the sky. The skyway system vaults the mall with its covered bridges of steel and glass, and they, too, are full of people, color, motion.

But late at night, there's a change in the Nicollet Mall.

The street lamp globes hang like myriad moons, and light glows in the empty bus shelters like nebulae. Down through the silent business district the mall twists, the silver zipper in a patchwork coat of many dark colors. The sound of traffic from Hennepin Avenue, one block over, might be the grating of the World-Worm's scales over stone.

Near the south end of the mall, in front of Orchestra Hall, Peavey Plaza beckons: a reflecting pool, and a cascade that descends from towering chrome cylinders to a sunken walk-in maze of stone blocks and pillars for which "fountain" is an inadequate name. In the moonlight, it is black and silver, gray and white, full of an elusive play of shape and contrast.

On that night, there were voices in Peavey Plaza. One was like the susurrus of the fountain itself, sometimes hissing, sometimes with the little-bell sound of a water drop striking. The other was deep and rough; if the concrete were an animal, it would have this voice.

"Tell me," said the water voice, "what you have found."

The deep voice replied. "There is a woman who will do, I think."

When water hits a hot griddle, it sizzles; the water-voice sounded like that. "You are our eyes and legs in this, Dog. That should not interfere with your tongue. Tell me!"

A low, growling laugh, then: "She makes music, the kind that moves heart and body. In another time, we would have found her long before, for that alone. We grow fat and slow in this easy life," the rough voice said, as if it meant to say something very different.

The water made a fierce sound, but the rough voice laughed again, and went on. "She is like flowering moss, delicate and fair, but proof against frosts and trampling feet. Her hair is the color of an elm leaf before it falls, her eyes the gray of the storm that brings it down. She does not offend the eye. She seems strong enough, and I think she is clever. Shall I bring her to show to you?"

"Can you?"

"B'lieve I can. But we should rather ask—will she do what she's to do?"

The water-voice's laughter was like sleet on a window. "With all the Court against her if she refuses? Oh, if we fancy her, Dog, she'll do. Pity her if she tries to stand against us."

And the rough voice said quietly, "I shall."

Chapter 1

Another Magic Moment in Showbiz

The University Bar was not, in the grand scheme of the city, close to the university. Nor was its clientele collegiate. They worked the assembly lines and warehouses, and wanted uncomplicated entertainment. The club boasted a jukebox stocked by the rental company and two old arcade games. It was small and smoky and smelled vaguely bad. But InKline Plain, the most misspelled band in Minneapolis, was there, playing the first night of a two-night gig with a sort of weary desperation. The promise of fifty dollars per band member kept them going; it was more than they'd made last week.

Eddi McCandry stared bleakly at the dim little stage with its red-and-black flocked wallpaper. The band's equipment threatened to overflow it. She'd tried to wedge her guitar stand out of the way, but it still seemed likely to leap out and trip someone. She was glad the keyboard player had quit two weeks before—there wasn't room for him.

The first set had been had enough, playing to a nearly empty club. The next two were worse. Too many country fans with requests for favorites. And of course, Stuart, as bandleader, had accepted them all, played them wretchedly, forgot the words, and made it plain that he didn't care. They were the wrong band for this bar.

"I think," Eddi said, "that this job was a bad idea."

Her companion nodded solemnly. "Every time you've said that this evening, it's sounded smarter." Carla DiAmato was the drummer for InKline Plain. With her shaggy black hair and her eyes made up dark for the stage, she looked exotic as a tiger, wholly out of place in the University Bar.

"It would have been smarter to tell Stuart it was a bad idea," Eddi said. "Ideally, before he booked the job."

"You couldn't know."

"I could. I did. Look at this place."

Carla sighed. "I think I'm gonna hear the 'This Band Sucks Dead Rat' speech again."

"Well, it does."

"Through a straw. I know. So why don't you quit?"

Eddi looked at her, then at her glass, then at the ceiling. "Why don't you?"

"It's steady work." Carla was silent for a moment, then added, "Well, it used to be."

"Tsk. You don't even have my excuse."

"You mean I haven't been sleeping with Stuart?"

"Yeah," Eddi sighed, "like that."

"Sometimes I take my blessings for granted. I'm going to go up and scare the cockroaches out of the bass drum."

"Good luck," said Eddi. "I'll be right behind you."

She almost made it to the stage before Stuart Kline grabbed her arm. His face was flushed, and his brown hair was rumpled, half-flattened. She sighed. "You're drunk, Stu," she said with a gentleness that surprised her.

"Fuck it." Petulance twisted up his male-model features. She should have felt angry, or ashamed. All she felt was a distant wonder: I used to be in love with him.

She asked, "You want to do easy stuff this set?"

"I said fuck it, fuck off. I'm okay."

Eddi shrugged. "It's your hanging."

He grabbed her arm again. "Hey, I want you to be nicer to the club managers."


"Don't look at me like that. Just flirt. It's good for the band."

She wanted to tweak his nose, see his smile—but that didn't make him smile anymore. "Stuart, you don't get gigs by sending the rhythm guitarist to flirt with the manager. You get 'em by playing good dance music."

"I play good dance music."

"We play anything that's already been played to death. All night, people have been sticking their heads in the front door, listening to half a song, and leaving. You in a betting mood?"


"I bet the nice man at the bar tells us not to come back tomorrow."

"Damn you," he raged suddenly, "is that my fault?"

Eddi blinked.

"You pissed him off, didn't you? Why do you have to be such a bitch?"

For a long moment she thought she might shout back at him. But it was laughter that came racing up her throat. Stuart's look of foolish surprise fed it, doubled it. She planted a smacking kiss on his chin. "Stuart, honey," she grinned, "you gotta grow where you're planted."

She loped over and swung up on stage, took her lipstick-red Rickenbacker from the stand, and flipped the strap over her shoulder. She caught Carla's eye over the tops of the cymbals. "Dale back from break yet?"

Carla shook her head, then inhaled loudly through pursed lips. "Parking lot," she croaked.

"Oh, goody. The whole left side of the stage in an altered state of consciousness. Let's figure out the set list."

"But we've got a set list."

"Let's make a new one. May as well be hanged for Prince as for Pink Floyd."

"But Stuart—"

Eddi grinned. "I want to leave this band in a blaze of glory."

Carla's eyes grew wide. "You're—Jesus. Okay, set list. Can we dump all the Chuck Berry?"

"Yeah. Let's show this dive that we at least flirt with modern music, huh?"

They came up with a list of songs in a few gleeful minutes. Stuart hoisted himself on stage as they finished, eyeing them with sullen suspicion. He slung on his guitar and began to noodle, running through his arsenal of electronic effects—more, Eddi suspected, to prove to the audience that he had them than to make sure they worked.

Dale, the bass player, ambled on stage looking vaguely pleased with himself. Dale was all right in his own disconnected way; but he liked country rock and hated rock 'n' roll, and consoled himself with dope during breaks. Eddi cranked up the bass on her amp and hoped it would make up for whatever he was too stoned to deliver.

Carla was watching her, waiting for the cue to start. Stuart and Dale were ready, if not precisely waiting. "Give us a count," she said to Carla. Stuart glared at her. Carla counted, and they kicked off with a semblance of unity.

They began with a skewed version of Del Shannon's "Runaway." It was familiar enough to pull people onto the dance floor, and the band's odd arrangement disguised most of the mistakes. Eddi and Carla did impromptu girl-group vocals. Dale looked confused. Then they dived into the Bangles' "In a Different Light," and Stuart began to sulk. Eddi had anticipated that. The next one was an old Eagles song that gave Stuart a chance to sing and muddle up the lead guitar riffs.

Perhaps the scanty audience felt Eddi's sudden madness; they were in charity with the band for the first time that night. People had finally started to dance. Eddi hoped it wasn't too late to impress the manager, but suspected it was.

Carla set the bass drum and her drum machine to tossing the percussion back and forth. The dancers were staying on the floor, waiting for the beat to fulfill its promise. Eddi murmured the four-count. Dale thumped out a bass line that was only a little too predictable. Stuart shot Eddi an unreadable look and layered on the piercing voice of his Stratocaster. Eddi grabbed her mike and began to sing.

You told me I was pretty

I can't believe it's true.

The little dears you left me for

They all look just like you.

Ugly is as ugly does

Are you telling me what to do?

Wear my face

You can have it for a week

Wear my face

Aren't the cheekbones chic?

Wear my face

See how people look at you?

Wear my face

See how much my face can do?

They were still dancing. The band was together and tight at last, and Eddi felt as if she'd done it all herself in a burst of goddesslike musical electricity.

Then she saw the man standing at the edge of the dance floor. His walnut-stain skin seemed too dark for his features. He wore his hair smoothed back, except for a couple of escaped curls on his forehead. His eyes were large and slanted upward under thick arched brows; his nose was narrow and slightly aquiline. He wore a long dark coat with the collar up, and a gleaming white scarf that reflected the stage lights into his face. When she looked at him, he met her eyes boldly and grinned.

Eddi snagged the microphone, took the one step toward him that she had room for, and sang the last verse at him.

I've seen the way you look away

When you think I might see,

You say I scare you silly

That's reacting sensibly.

Why should people look at you

When they could look at me?

It was Eddi who had to turn away, and the last chorus was delivered to the dancers. The man had met her look with a silent challenge that made her skin prickle. His sloping eyes had been full of reflected lights in colors that shone nowhere in the room.

She almost missed Carla's neat segue into the next song. She nailed down her first guitar chord barely in time, and caught Stuart's scowl out of the corner of her eye.

Eddi had wanted to close with something rambunctious, something the audience would like yet that would allow Eddi and Carla to respect themselves in the morning. Carla had hit upon ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses." Halfway into it, with a shower of sparks and a vile smell, the ancient power amp for the PA dropped dead.

As the microphones failed, Stuart's vocals disappeared tinnily under the sound of guitars and bass and Carla's drums. Stuart, never at his best in the face of adversity, lost his temper. He yanked his guitar strap over his head and let the Strat drop to the stage. The pickups howled painfully through his amp.

Eddi heard Dale's bass stumble through a succession of wrong notes, and fall silent. She supposed he was right; Stuart had made it impossible to end the song gracefully. But for her pride's sake, she played out the measure and added a final flourish. Carla matched her perfectly, and Eddi wanted to kiss her feet for it.

The dancers had deserted the floor, and people were finishing drinks and pulling on jackets. She swept the room a stagey bow. At the corner of her vision, she thought she saw a dark-coated figure move toward the door.

Stuart had turned off his amp and unplugged his axe. His expression was forbidding. Eddi turned away to tend to her own equipment, but not before she saw the club manager striding toward the stage.

"You the bandleader?" she heard him ask Stuart.

"Yeah," said Stuart, "what is it?"

It's our walking papers, Stu, she thought sadly, knowing that he could save the whole gig now, if only he would be pleasant and conciliating. He wouldn't be, of course. The manager would tell Stuart what he should be doing with his band, and Stuart, instead of thanking him for the tip, would recommend he keep his asshole advice to himself.

And Stuart would make Eddi out the villain if he could. Well, she was done with that now. She finished packing her guitar and tracked the power cord on her amplifier back to the outlet.

"You're that sure, huh?" Carla's voice came from over her head.

"You mean, am I packing up everything? Yeah. You want help tearing down?"

Carla looked faded and limp. "You can pack the electronic junk."

Eddi nodded, and started unplugging things from the back of the drum machine. "You done good, kid. Even at the end when it hit the fan."

Carla shook her head and grinned. "Well, you got to go out in a blaze of something."

Over at the bar, Stuart and the manager had begun to shout at each other. "I booked a goddamn five-piece!" the manager yelled. "You goddamn well did break your contract!"

Carla looked up at Eddi, her eyes wide. "Oh boy—you mean we're not even gonna get paid?"

Eddi turned to see how Dale was taking the news. He was nowhere to be seen.

"Carla, you think your wagon will hold your equipment and mine, too?"

Carla smiled. "The Titanic? I won't even have to put the seat down."

They did have to put the seat down, but the drums, drum machine, Eddi's guitar, and her Fender Twin Reverb all fit. They made three trips out the back door with the stuff, and Stuart and the manager showed no sign of noticing them.

As Carla bullied the wagon out of its parking space, Eddi spotted Dale. He was leaning against the back of his rusted-out Dodge. The lit end of his joint flared under his nose. "Hold it," Eddi said to Carla. She jumped out of the car and ran over to him. "Hey, Dale!"

"Eddi? Hullo. Is Stuart still at it?"

"Still at what?"

Dale shrugged and dragged at the joint. "You know," he croaked, "screwing up." He exhaled and held the J out to her.

Eddi shook her head. "I didn't think you'd noticed—I mean—"

"Been pretty bad the last month. It'd be hard not to." He smiled sadly at the toes of his cowboy boots. "So, you going?"

"Yeah. That is, I'm leaving the band."

"That's what I meant."

"Oh. Well, I wanted to say good-bye. I'll miss you." Which, Eddi realized with a start, was more true than she'd thought.

Dale smiled at his joint. "Maybe I'll quit gigging. Friend of mine has a farm out past Shakopee, says I can stay there. He's got goats, and some beehives—pretty fuckin' weird." He looked at her, and his voice lost some of its dreaminess. "You know, you're really good. I don't much like that stuff, you know, but you're good."

Eddi found she couldn't answer that. She hugged him instead, whispered, "Bye, Dale," and ran back to the car.

Carla turned north on Highway 35. Eddi hung over the back of her seat watching the Minneapolis skyline rise up and unroll behind them. White light banded the top of the IDS building, rebounded off the darkened geometry of a blue glass tower nearby. The clock on the old courthouse added the angular red of its hands. The river glittered like wrinkled black patent leather, and the railroad bridges glowed like something from a movie set.

"I love this view," Eddi sighed. "Even the Metrodome's not bad from here, for a glow-in-the-dark fungus."

"Boy, you are feeling sentimental," said Carla.

"Yeah." Eddi turned around to face the windshield. "Carla, am I doing the right thing?"

"You mean dumping Personality Man?"

Eddi looked at her, startled.

"Hey," Carla continued, "no big deduction. You couldn't leave Stu's band and stay friends with Stu—nobody could. So kissing off the band means breaking up with Mr. Potato Head."

Eddi giggled. "It's a really pretty potato."

"And solid all the way through. This'll probably wipe the band out, y'know."

"He can replace me," Eddi shrugged.

"Maybe. But you and me?"

"You're quitting?"

"I'm not sticking around to watch Stuart piss and moan." Carla's tone was a little too offhand, and Eddi shot her a glance. "Oh, all right," Carla amended. "Stuart would scream about what a bitch and a traitor you are, I'd tell him he was a shit and didn't deserve you, and I'd end up walking out anyway. Why not now?"

Eddi slugged her gently in the shoulder. "Yer a pal."

"Yeah, yeah. So start a band I can drum in."

"You could play for anybody."

"I don't want to play for anybody. You do that, you end up working with bums like Stuart."

With a lurch and a rumble of drumheads, they pulled in the driveway of Chester's. Even in the dark, its bits of Tudor architecture were unconvincing. The bar rush that hit every all-night restaurant was in full force; they had to wait for a table. When they got one, they ordered coffee and tea.

"So, are you going to start a band?"

Eddi slumped in her seat. "Oh God, Carla. It's such a crappy way to make a living. You work and work, and you end up playing cover tunes in the Dew Drop Inn where all the guys slow-dance with their hands in their girlfriends' back pockets."

"So you don't do that kind of band."

"What kind do you do?"

Their order arrived, and Carla dunked a tea bag with great concentration. "Originals," she said at last. "Absolutely new, on-the-edge stuff. Very high class. Only play the good venues."

Eddi stared at her. "Maybe I should just go over to Control Data and apply for a job as Chairman of the Board."

Carla looked out the window. "Listen. You don't become a bar band and work your way up from there. There is no up from there. It's a dead end. All you can become is the world's best bar band."

Eddi sighed. "I don't want a new band. I want to be a normal person."

Carla's dark eyes were very wide. "Oh," she said.

"Hey," Eddi smiled limply, "it's not like you to miss a straight line."

"Too easy," Carla said with a shrug. Then she shook her head and made her black hair fly, and seemed to shake off her sorrow as well. "Give it time. You don't remember how awful it is being normal."

"Not as awful as being in InKline Plain."

"Oh, worse," said Carla solemnly. "They make you sit at a desk all day and eat vending machine donuts, and your butt gets humongous."

"Now that," Eddi said, "is a job I can handle."

"If you work hard, you get promoted to brownies." Carla set her cup down. "Come on, let's roll."

Outside, the wind was blowing. It had none of the rough-sided cold of winter in it; it was damp, with a spoor of wildness that seemed to race through Eddi's blood. It made her want to run, yell, do any foolish thing.…

"You okay?" Carla's voice broke into her mood. "If you don't get in the car, I'm gonna leave without you."

Eddi took pleasure in the dash to the car, the way the wind tugged on her hair. "Roll the windows down."

"Are you bats? We'll freeze."

Eddi rolled down her own, but it wasn't enough. As they drove toward the city, the early spring madness drained away. The wagon's rattles and squeaks, its smell of cigarette butts and old vinyl and burnt oil, took its place. By the time they'd reached the edge of downtown, Eddi felt weary in every muscle and bone.

What should she do now? What could she do? It sounded fine to tell Carla that she wanted to be normal for once, but Eddi had never been suited to a normal life. Once she had taken a job as a security guard, patrolling an abandoned factory from four until midnight. Each night her imagination had tenanted the shadows with burglars and arsonists. At the end of a week the shadows were full, and she quit. She typed too slowly—did everything with her hands too slowly, in fact, except play the guitar.

As for a normal love affair, it wasn't impossible. She was reasonably intelligent. She was attractive, though not beautiful: blond and grayeyed with strong features and clear skin; and she was small and slender and knew how to choose her clothes. But she wasn't sure where to find men who weren't—well, musicians.

"Mighty quiet," Carla said, as if she already knew why.

"I'm…I guess I'm beginning to realize the consequences of everything."

"Mmm. You going to chicken out?"

"No. But…would you call me tomorrow? Around two-ish? I figure I'll call Stu at one and tell him."

"And you'll need someone to tell you you're gonna be okay."

Eddi smiled sheepishly. "You must have done this yourself."

"Everybody has to, at least once. Don't beat yourself over the head for it."

The light was red at Washington and Hennepin, the corner where Carla would begin negotiating the rat's nest of one-way streets that led to Eddi's apartment. "Let me off here," she said suddenly.


"I want to walk. It's a nice night."

Carla was shocked. "It's freezing. And you'll get murdered."

"You've been living around the lakes too long. You think any place with buildings more than three stories high is full of addicts."

"And I'm right. Anyway, what about your axe and stuff?"

It was true; she couldn't haul her guitar and amplifier fourteen blocks. She was settling back in the passenger seat when Carla spoke again.

"I know, I know. 'Carla, would you mind taking them to your place and carrying them all the way up the back stairs, then carrying them back down tomorrow when you come over to keep me from being miserable 'cause I broke up with my boyfriend?' Sure, Ed, what're friends for?"

Eddi giggled. "If you'd quit going to Mass, you'd make a great Jewish mother." She leaned over and hugged her.

"Jeez, will you get out of here? The light's changed twice already!" After Eddi had bounced out and slammed the door, Carla shouted through the half-open window, "I'll call at two!"

"Thank you!" Eddi yelled back, and waved as the station wagon rumbled and clanked away from the curb. The gold-and-gray flank of the library rose before her, and she followed it to the Nicollet Mall.

Whatever had tugged at her in the restaurant parking lot refused to be summoned back now. Eddi shook her head and started down the mall, and hoped that the effort would blow her melancholy away. The rhythm of her steps reminded her of a dozen different songs at once, and she hummed one softly to herself. It was Kate Bush, she realized, "Cloudbusting," and she sang it as she walked.

Then she saw the figure standing by the bus shelter across the street.

By the shape, it was a man—a man's broad-brimmed hat and long, fitted coat. He didn't move, didn't seem even to turn his head to watch her, but she had a sudden wild understanding of the idea of a bullet with one's name on it. This figure had her name on him.

You must be feeling mighty low, girl, she scolded herself, if you think that every poor idiot who's missed his bus is lying in wait for you. Still, the man seemed naggingly present, and almost familiar. And three in the morning was an odd hour to wait for a bus in a town where the buses quit running at half past midnight.

Her pace was steady as she crossed the empty street. Behind her, she heard his steps begin. It's not fair, she raged as she sped up. I don't need this, not tonight. She thought she heard a low laugh behind her, half the block away. Her stride lost some of its purpose and took on an edge of panic.

South of the power company offices, Eddi turned and headed for Hennepin Avenue. If there were still people on any street in Minneapolis, they would be on Hennepin. A police cruiser might even come by.…

The footsteps behind her had stopped. There, see? Poor bastard was just walking down Nicollet. I'll be fine now

A black, waist-high shape slunk out of the alley in front of her. Its bared teeth glittered as it snarled; its eyes glowed red. It was a huge black dog, stalking stiff-legged toward her. Eddi backed up a step. It made a ferocious noise and lunged. She turned and ran in the only direction she could, back toward Nicollet.

She got one of the streetlight posts on the mall between her and the dog and turned to face it. It wasn't there. Across the street, in the shadow of a doorway, Eddi saw the silhouette of the man in the hat and long coat. He threw back his head, and she heard his laughter. The streetlight fell on his face and throat and she saw the gleam of his white scarf, his dark skin and sloping, shining eyes. It was the man from the dance floor, from the University Bar. She ran.

The footsteps behind her seemed unhurried, yet they never dropped back, no matter how fast she ran. She tried again to turn toward Hennepin. The black dog lunged at her from out of a parking ramp exit, its red eyes blazing.

This is crazy, she thought with the dead calm of fear. Muggers and mad dogs. I'm stuck in a Vincent Price movie. Where are the zombies?

She was running down Nicollet again before she realized that it couldn't be the same dog. But it was insane to think that the man could have known she would walk home, impossible to think he had a pack of dogs. Her breath burned in her throat. She had a stitch in her side. Her pace had become a quick stumble.

She'd almost reached the end of the mall, she realized. Two blocks away were the Holiday Inn and the Hyatt, and she could run into either, into a lobby full of light and bellhops and a desk clerk who'd call the police. She staggered across the street toward Peavey Plaza and Orchestra Hall.

The black dog seemed to form out of the shadows. Perhaps it was only one dog, after all; surely there weren't two dogs like this. It was huge, huge, its head low, its fur bristling gunmetal-dark in the street light. It growled softly, in macabre counterpoint to the waterfall sounds of the Peavey Plaza fountain. Did the damned dog know it stood between her and safety? How had it gotten past her? She moved sideways, through the concrete planters that marked the sidewalk level of Peavey Plaza. The hotels seemed miles away now. She would have to try to lose both dog and man in the complexity of the ornamental pool and fountains below her, and escape out the other side.

The dog lifted its head and howled, and Eddi thought of the dark man and his laugh. She wanted to curse, to throw something, to be home in her bed. She raced down a flight of steps, then another.

The footsteps behind her were sudden, as was the tap on her shoulder. She tried to turn in midstride and her foot didn't land on anything. Just before she plunged backward and headfirst down the last of the steps, she saw the man behind her, his eyes wide, his hand reaching out.

Then pain took away her fear, and darkness took the pain.

Copyright © 1987, 2001 by Emma Bull

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 15, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Captivating Urban Fantasy Adventure/Romance

    This book is simply captivating. It's the story of Eddi, a singer/songwriter/musician, who leaves a lackluster band led by her egotistical boyfriend and encounters the fey on her walk home. The seelie court of faerie has decided to bind her to them in their upcoming war against the unseelie. Despite Eddi's reluctance to involve herself in a fey war, the phouka, (a shapeshifter responsible for recommending Eddi to the seelie court), insists she's endangered and forcibly moves into her apartment. He becomes her roommate cum bodyguard and, eventually, her roadie. With encouragement from the phouka and her drummer, Eddi auditions new band members including an arresting lead guitarist named Willie Silver. The book seamlessly segues from Eddi's entertaining/humorous/touching interactions with the phouka to band practice/gigs to encounters with and attacks by the fey, including some romancing by a faerie lord. Further, there's fey battles in Minneapolis parks/greens, and fey partying accompanied by love. It all culminates in the ultimate gig. If you like rock combined with fantasy, fantasy combined with romance and/or fantasy about faeries/magic, then read this fantasy. This book is one of the few fantasies which offers an intensely satisfying read on multiple levels.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Amazing, the book is beautifully written. 

    Amazing, the book is beautifully written. 

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  • Posted February 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    down to earth without being stale

    I've come to the conclusion that any story with a phouka (alternately spelled pooka) is better for it. Harvey (with James Stewart) made brilliant use of this creature. Emma Bull does the same in War for the Oaks. Originally published in 1987, this book is set in Minneapolis where Eddi McCandry is trying to make a living as a rock and roll musician. When the novel starts, Eddi's prospects in the music department are not so good. To make matters worse, she is soon recruited by the Seelie Court to help them make war. That's right, Eddi is drafted into a faerie war. In order to keep her safe (until she has to risk her life in battle), the phouka is dispatched as her bodyguard.

    There is something kind of awesome about a book that can combine rock music with something as fantastical as faeries. Bull does it wonderfully. Each chapter title is a song. Music excerpts abound throughout, sure to entertain even those of us unfamiliar with music of that period. Bull also spends a lot of time describing the process of making music--what the band sounds like on stage, how rehearsals go, etc. Instead of being boring or draggy, they're really interesting and show how very much effort goes into this process.

    At times the plot seemed a little predictable, but I'm still not sure if that's just because I've been reading quite a few fantasy books lately instead of from anything in the writing. It doesn't really matter though because it's not a bad predictability. Rather, it's the kind that leaves a sense of satisfaction because it feels like the plot is going along as it should be.

    Bull's writing style was down to earth without being stale and her characters will not easily be forgotten. The phouka, in particular, is a favorite for too many reasons to enumerate here. So, if you haven't guessed, I strongly recommend this book. If you like music, if you like phoukas, if you like fantasy, if you need something to read, if you believe in magic--this book is for you.

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  • Posted February 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    An Urban Fantasy Essential

    This may be my all-time favorite example of urban fantasy. It is certainly one of my all time favorite novels in any genre. Had Emma Bull written this a few hundred years ago, it would no doubt be a classic fairy tale. That it was written much more recently should not be held against it. Bull weaves a fantastic story, a war between the Seelie and Unseelie courts using weapons both ancient and modern, and across battlegrounds of deep forests and human hearts. The characters are very realistic, human when they're supposed to be and something else when they're not. The language and action flow naturally, carrying the reader along with them. This novel belongs in the library of anyone who loves urban fantasy or fairy mythology.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2008

    Worth the read

    This was good. It took some patience- slow at times, but a nice kind of slow- I liked this book. I did love one of the characters 'the Phouka', though I still would not say this is one of my favorite books. I did not find myself drawn to Eddie, the main character, and I think that diminished my engagement with the story. I do not regret the time I spent reading it, though I would not say, 'You MUST read this book.' It is not a page turner. It did not keep me reading into the night as the book I have included below did. But still...I am glad I read it. If you enjoy fantasy, I think you would like it too.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 4, 2008

    A reviewer

    Simply Amazing. This book has all the elements of a perfect fairy tail with a modern twist. I've read it a million time & wonder why more people don't know about it. Extremely under-rated book. Go buy it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2007

    A reviewer

    Edgy, original, entertaining. The combination of music and magic made for an interesting combination, especially against the background of urban landscape contrasted against a very faerie war.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2005

    What Urban Fantasy Should Be

    In 'A War for the Oaks' Emma Bull captures the true spirit of Urban fantasy exactly the way it should be portrayed. Beyond authors like Charles de Lint, this author comes foward with a voice, and a story that make you glad to participate from begining till end. If only there were more authors like her Urban Fantasy would be in a much better place, instead of being merely as a passing phase.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2002

    this is a snazzy book

    its a modern fantasy that is absolutely spiffy cuz it includes stuff about the hardships of making a rock band. its great about the way emma bull (the author) includes faeries and all that into the story line. once i started reading it i just couldn't put the book down!! its definetily worth the money... i might even buy a second copy cuz i'm so obsessed with it!

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Fantastic urban fantasy

    Rhythm guitarist Eddi McCandry knows finally knows with this gig at Minneapolis¿ University Bar the band stinks and her former lover Stuart Kline has no talent. She realizes it is time to move on by leaving Stuart and InKline Plain for another rock and roll band, but one that plays music that came after the end of the Eisenhower administration. <P>While Eddi suffers, the Seelie Court of Faerie select her as their human champion in the war with the Unseelie. To protect her, the Seelie send her a bodyguard. He is a large black male who turns into a nasty looking canine when danger arises. However, as Eddi adapts to having a guitar in two realms, her side is filled with dissension and treachery while the enemy wants to eliminate the mortal threat to their immortality. <P> WAR FOR THE OAKS is a reprint of a Reagan era cult classic and no bull, the story line holds up as a superb example of urban fantasy. The tale is fast-paced and Eddi¿s humor lightens the tension just enough so that it lightens but does not overwhelm the plot. The story hooks the audience from the start because Eddi is a fabulous lead character and the range of Faerie persona seem real yet bizarre and exotic so that author Emma Bull avoids the pitfall of ¿Earthenizing¿ the race. Do You Believe In Magic? The answer is yes if you have read this wild ride through the Twin Cities. <P>Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 29, 2001

    Terrific Urban Fantasy

    It's so good to see this wonderful book back in print! This is a great introduction to what is frequently called Urban Fantasy. The characters are very engaging and the plot well-paced and fun. Once begun, it's a very difficult book to put down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2001

    Reading this one once will not be enough

    Our reluctant heroine had me saying ' yeah that would be my reaction too.' This one is realistic enough to have you saying this could happen, yet it is far enough out there to tickle your fanstsy bone. This author should write MORE.

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    Posted January 9, 2009

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    Posted September 4, 2009

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    Posted January 3, 2010

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    Posted November 6, 2012

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    Posted June 8, 2009

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    Posted June 9, 2010

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    Posted July 9, 2010

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    Posted April 21, 2010

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