If I was writing this review back when I’d read this book the first time, I would have given it a firm 5 stars and been proselytizing it all over the place. It was the first urban fantasy I’d ever encountered, and the story really got me as a college aged writing major.
With that being said, I did a close-read on it for my MFA, and d*mn those close readings for ruining a book I have such fond memories of!
This is not to say Bull’s craft is bad; it’s not…it’s actually quite brilliant, and her character development is on par with Gaiman and Pratchett. But because I was focusing on the craft, I found myself incredibly disenchanted by the plot during the second read, and really didn’t want to finish the book.
I would really like to blame this occurrence on the fact that this story is all about the reveal, so since I knew what was coming, the book lost some of its charm, and became a little boring.
The War for the Oaks is set in 1980s Minneapolis, and the Faerie Courts are planning on hosting a war in the city, but they need a mortal to be on the scene of the battlefield in order to break the spell of immortality for the event.
Eddie McCandry is an aspiring rock-and-roller who’s selected by the Faerie court to be their ‘mortal,’ and she soon finds herself in constant danger, and becomes unwittingly attached to her body-guard, the Phouka, as she learns about Faerie and the war that’s pulling the world apart.
There are many nice things about this book; Bull does an awesome job of weaving the world of the Faeries into the real Minneapolis, and her descriptions and knowledge of Fae lore are impressive. But some of the plot comes off as cliché, and a lot of the themes and references are very 1980s, and don’t hold up some thirty years later.
Also, just for Ms. Julien, I’ve removed a half star for the poor fashion choices in this novel. Granted, it’s a product of its time and was published in 1987, but the clothing in this story has serious representation power for the characters, and since we as readers have become so far removed from the popular styles of the 80s, the fashion choices in this novel have not helped the story age gracefully. If anything, if they’ve detracted from the characters and make them seem a bit foolish.
Even though I’m only giving this a 2.5 for its inability to transcend the 80s, the core story and good writing in this novel will still be near and dear to my heart.