On a recent book-scouting adventure in Minneapolis, I spoke with Roger over at Magus Books, and asked him if he knew of any books similar to my “Evil Looks Good” – a paranormal adventure set in modern-day Minneapolis. He highly suggested Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks. (Careful, the Wikipedia entry is laden with spoilers.)
War for the Oaks is considered to be the very first book to define the Urban Fantasy genre. It is deeply steeped in Minneapolis, Music, and 80’s Fashion. Emma Bull’s taste in music is great, she constantly drops band names and song references throughout the story. Same with locations – you won’t forget the story takes place here in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. The story bounces around to some of the best locations in town.
Fashions that might be laughable today are considered quite stylish for the 80’s, when the story takes place, and Emma nails them perfectly. Jean jackets with turned-up collars and high-tops? Yikes. Been there, worn that, stole back the pix and burned them.
The third-person POV story revolves around the main character, Eddi McCandry. Eddi is chosen as a magical savior in an upcoming war and assigned a Faerie bodyguard. In the first half of the book, the “War” is only a minor backdrop; shadowed by the relationships and band drama surrounding Eddi. She resigns herself to her fate as the Chosen One, and goes about constructing a new band amidst shifting relationships, and coming to terms with the bodyguard who won’t leave her side. The second half of the story gets more involved with the actual war, some of which spills into the real world, and climaxes with a classic duel of Good Vs Evil at First Avenue!
Emma Bull does a great job of making the other-world characters feel other-worldly. Their method of speech feels Victorian, and their manners and customs are notably different than that of humans.
As far as my own research goes, it was enlightening to see how another author approaches shifting between different realities, and descriptions of Minneapolis areas. Her writings on band politics and music technology are accurate, which makes sense, since Emma Bull was in a local band or two.
As for pure, entertainment value, War for the Oaks is a great story for those who want a Disney faerie tale crossed with 1980’s Minneapolis music, fashion and urban fantasy.