Emma Bull,
War for the Oaks
(Ace Books, 1987)

Eddi McCandry is positive that her life can get no worse. She has just broken up with her boyfriend and lost her source of income (playing in his band), all in one evening. And then she finds out that the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court of Faerie are going to go to war. Because they are immortal, they cannot kill one another unless a mortal is present at their battlefield -- and the Seelie Court has just drafted Eddi.

They have also provided her with a guardian, a phouka, who is sometimes a dark-skinned man who loves coffee and sometimes a black dog. It is his duty to keep Eddi alive until the time of the battle, for the Unseelie Court will attempt to make sure that she is unable to attend the festivities.

Realizing that she won't be able to find a job with the phouka in tow, Eddi and her confidante Carla decide to form their own band. And when they find the two guitarists they lack, their new band is amazing, even magical.

From then on, for Eddi and her human friends, the world is slightly off kilter. They know there is magic, only a half step away from where they are standing, and the forces of Light and Darkness are going to do battle for the city of Minneapolis.

Despite the grand epic sweep of the battle between Seelie and Unseelie Courts, it is the characters that drive this novel, and chief among them are Eddi and the phouka. Eddi's transformation from lead singer in a failing band to champion of the Seelie Court is fascinating to watch. The bickering between her and the phouka is often funny, especially his insistence on calling her little pet names such as "my primrose." The phouka, who remains simply "the phouka" throughout the novel, is just as well-fleshed as Eddi, with his lilting speech, his love of coffee and his ironic observances about Eddi's life.

War for the Oaks is urban fantasy at its best. Not only does Bull bring her human characters and the city of Minneapolis to life, but she makes the members of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts seem equally real. Then again, who is to say that they are not? Find a copy of this book. You won't be disappointed.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]

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