War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

War for the Oaks (1987 cover) by Emma Bull

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Genres and Sub-GenresEdit

Urban Fantasy

War of the Oaks is considered an early example of Urban Fantasy.

Book Description or Overview Edit

The Seelie Court (faeries) is at war with the Unseelie Court. They want a real war, with real death, and since they are immortal, they can only get actual carnage by binding a mortal to their cause. They assign the phouka (a man who changes into a black dog) to pick out a mortal and then to guard her until the battles are concluded. The phouka, who never does get a name, selects Eddi McCandry, a struggling Minneapolis musician. Eddi, however, has a mind of her own and refuses to be an unthinking pawn in the Court’s endless games. Much mayhem ensues including humor, adventure, tragedy, magic, music, and the most swoonworthy of romances.

Themes Edit

  • On the inside, it’s a tale about empowerment.
  • Emphasis on the power of humanity, of human nature, and that power roared through this story. ~ Fantasy Book Critic

Related Books and Stories Edit

"A Bird That Whistles" (short story prequel) in: 

  • Urban Fantasy Anthology (2011)
  • New Magics: An Anthology of Today's Fantasy (2005) (GR)
  • Double Feature (1999) with Will Shetterly — Cover Art: Nick Jainschigg (GR)

World Building Edit

Setting Edit

Minneapolis, Minnesota and the surrounding parks and land.


  • Minneapolis: The western half of the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
  • Como Park: A place chosen for a battle between two fay factions.
  • Hennepin Avenue: Main downtown street in Minneapolis
  • Loring Park
  • Faerie: A land that co-exists on another dimension with Minneapolis.
  • Mississippi River: Major river in the US which divides Minneapolis from St. Paul
  • Washington Avenue

The Supernatural Elements Edit

Phouka, fairies, shape-shifters, Sidhe lords, lower fae, Seelie and Unseelie Courts, the Lady vs. the Queen of Air and Darkness,

  • Phouka: a man who changes into a black dog—a shape shifting fae creature known for being a trickster.
  • Fae: Folk and creatures of the fairie dimension or lands.

World Edit

In Bull’s world, faeries are a diverse lot, multicultural and multispecies. They have elaborate social rules, and an inflated sense of honor despite their trickster natures. They can change shape, stop time, and exist for centuries. Music is just one way they manifest their magic, and not a primary one. The novel excels is in depicting the clash between Faerie and the real world of 1987. They co-exist with our reality, coming through whenever they feel like it and taking Eddi into their alternate world with ease. That other existence runs parallel to ours, overlapping in places but also carving out its own space. ~ Tor

There are mentions of a class struggle in the Seelie Court, between the sidhe and the ‘lower’ fey. The current conflict between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts provided the reason for Eddi’s involvement. Eddi was chosen by the Seelie Court to bind her own mortality to Faerie, enabling the fey to be killed in battle. The fairies were fighting over who got to rule Minneapolis, and the fight seemed more like a tradition than a result of any actual grievance. If the Seelie won, Minneapolis would stay a great place for living things. If the Unseelie won, it would wither and die. ~ Tethyan Books

Protagonists Edit

✥ Talented Minneapolis rock singer Eddi McCandry has just decided to break it off with her boyfriend Stuart and his band, InKline Plain. But that’s not the worst thing that will happen to her on the night the novel opens. In between leaving band practice and returning home, Eddi will be drawn into a war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of Faerie. The immortals need a mortal present on the battlefield in order to shed blood. For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, Eddi is the Seelie Court’s choice. ~ Review: War for the Oaks by Emma Bull « Shut Up, Heathcliff

✥ The phouka selects Eddi McCandry for the Faerie Courts need of a mortal to bind to their cause for war. Eddi, however, has a mind of her own and refuses to be an unthinking pawn in the Court’s endless games.

Eddi may be confused by her feelings, but she never loses her focus, which is her music. She has fierce courage and a strong sense of loyalty, which contrasts with Faerie’s more simplistic ideas of right and wrong. She never emotionally penalizes herself for having doubts about her two potential partners, and works through her relationship issues with real maturity. And when she puts together her band, it’s with single-minded drive and clarity of purpose. ~ Tor

✥ We should all have a friend like Carla. She’s fiercely loyal, she’s funny, she’s talented, she has a pretty great romance of her own, and it’s made quite clear that without her business savvy Eddi would still be playing at the crappy bar, or some variation thereof.

Phouka is the most prominent fairy character in the book. He’s very loyal to Eddi and we only get glimpses of how often he has to fight to protect her. He doesn’t tell her anything that he doesn’t want to which is frustrating at times. He’s torn between loyalty to his Queen, to his people, and to Eddi. Yet, he’s often cheerful and banters happily with Eddi. I liked him perhaps the most. ~ Mervi's Book reviews

The phouka is able to summon his outfits from the air—and what outfits they are. As the book progresses, they move from being adversaries to becoming partners, and a lot of this process has to do with the phouka becoming truthful with Eddi, to the point of helping her see through the glamour that the Seelie Court seeks to impose on her. Even when they are at cross-purposes, Eddi and the phouka never underestimate each other. They both have their own areas of expertise and the phouka doesn’t pretend to be an expert on music, or, indeed, pretty much any aspect of Eddi’s mortal world, just as she admits complete ignorance of the supernatural world. They learn from each other because they are both willing to admit ignorance, and that implies a certain setting aside of pride. The phouka specializes in erratic and confusing behavior, but he makes such a point of it that his inconsistencies are in character. ~ Smart Bitches, Trashy books

Main Characters Edit

War for the Oaks by Emma Bull ~ Shelfari (character list)

Characters What About
Eddi McCandry Rock musician, poet; human Eddi McCandry is a guitar player and singer, living in Minneapolis. The Fae have chosen her to bring the power of death to their war. Guarded by the Siddhe and hunted by the unSeelie, she must find and make her own magic.... just as soon as she finds a new band; unwilling champion of the Seelie Court in war with their ancient enemies
Carla DiAmato Eddi's best friend; drummer; human the one who encourages Eddi to start a new band: Eddi and the Fey.
Willy Silver Sidhe; guitarist Plays for Eddi and the Fey; love interest;
The Phouka Magical Celtic trickster faerie The Phouka, a shapechanging faerie who can appear as a dog or a man, who works for the Seelie court. He guards Eddi from the unSeelie and also serves as her guide through the world of the Fae.
Danny Rochelle Human keyboardist plays for Eddi and the Fey; falls in love with Carla;
Stuart Kline Human Eddi's ex-boyfriend, he is recruited by the unSeelie court as part of their efforts to harm her.
Hairy Meg brownie old fashioned Celtic type; makes great scones
Hedge unSeelie Bassist for Eddi and the Fey; he rarely speaks;
Dark Lady Queen of the Unseelie Court
Emma Bull

Emma Bull

Author Edit

Emma Bull

  • WebsiteEmma Bull
  • Genres: Early Urban Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy

Bio: Emma Bull is a science fiction and fantasy author whose best-known novel is War for the Oaks, one of the pioneering works of urban fantasy. She has participated in Terri Windling's Borderland shared universe, which is the setting of her 1994 novel Finder. She sang in the rock-funk band Cats Laughing, and both sang and played guitar in the folk duo The Flash Girls while living in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Her 1991 post-apocalyptic science fiction novel Bone Dance was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. Bull wrote a screenplay for War for the Oaks, which was made into an 11-minute mini-film designed to look like a film trailer. She made a cameo appearance as the Queen of the Seelie Court, and her husband, Will Shetterly, directed. Bull and Shetterly created the shared universe of Liavek, for which they have both written stories. There are five Liavek collections extant.

She was a member of the writing group The Scribblies, which included Will Shetterly as well as Pamela Dean, Kara Dalkey, Nate Bucklin, Patricia Wrede and Steven Brust. With Steven Brust, Bull wrote Freedom and Necessity (1997), an epistolary novel with subtle fantasy elements set during the 19th century United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland Chartist movement.

Bull graduated from Beloit College in 1976. Bull and Shetterly live in Arizona. ~ Goodreads | Emma Bull

Cover ArtistsEdit

  • Artist: Shelley Eshkar
  • Artist: Pamela Patrick (1987, 1996 editions)

Publishing InformationEdit

~ Goodreads | Editions of War for the Oaks by Emma Bull

Book Cover Blurbs Edit

❖ 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. (1987—Ace) ~ Goodreads | War for the Oaks

❖ Eddi McCandry has just left her boyfriend and their band when she finds herself running through the Minneapolis night, pursued by a sinister man and a huge, terrifying dog. The two creatures are one and the same: a phouka, a faerie being who has chosen Eddi to be a mortal pawn in the age-old war between the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Eddi isn't interested—but she doesn't have a choice. Now she struggles to build a new life and new band when she might not even survive till the first rehearsal. (2004—Tor Teen) ~ Goodreads | War for the Oaks

❖ Acclaimed by critics and readers on its first publication in 1987, winner of the Locus Award for Best First Novel, Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks is one of the novels that has defined modern urban fantasy.

Eddi McCandry sings rock and roll. But her boyfriend just dumped her, her band just broke up, and life could hardly be worse. Then, walking home through downtown Minneapolis on a dark night, she finds herself drafted into an invisible war between the faerie folk. Now, more than her own survival is at risk—and her own preferences, musical and personal, are very much beside the point.

By turns tough and lyrical, fabulous and down-to-earth, War for the Oaks is a fantasy novel that’s as much about this world as about the other one. It’s about real love and loyalty, about real music and musicians, about false glamour and true art. It will change the way you hear and see your own daily life. (2004—Orb Books) ~ Goodreads | War for the Oaks

First Sentence Edit

The University Bar was not, in the grand scheme of the city, close to the university. ~ Shelfari

TOC: Table of Contents Edit

  • Introduction
  • Prologue
  1. Another Magic Moment in Showbiz
  2. Who Can It Be Now?
  3. My Boyfriend's Back
  4. I've Just Seen a Face
  5. You Can't Always Get What you Want
  6. It's So Easy to Fall in Love
  7. Goin' Mobile
  8. Lucky Girl
  9. Would I Lie to You?
  10. Spellbound
  11. Helter Skelter
  12. Makes No Sense at All
  13. Do You Believe in Magic?
  14. Shall We Dance?
  15. In a Different Light
  16. Party Up
  17. I Burn for You
  18. Red Rain
  19. When the Generals Talk
  20. I Have the Touch
  • Appendix

Awards Edit

  • Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature nominee (1988) : War for the Oaks
  • Locus Award (1988: Best First Novel)
  • Geffen Award (Finalist, 2006: Best Translated Fantasy Book)

Quotes Edit

Emma Bull Quotes (Author of War for the Oaks)

“Eddie looked down her nose at the phouka and said, ‘All right, play guard dog if it makes you feel good. I’ll go climb out the bedroom window.’ She turned and started away.
‘It’s painted shut.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Gracious, pet, I’m a supernatural being.’
‘You’re a shithead,’ Eddie said sweetly, and led Carla off to the bedroom.
Eddi paced the tiny space at the end of the bed, and Carla drew her feet out of the way in mock alarm.
‘Don’t worry, I won’t tell him how to handle you.’
Eddi glanced at her deadpan face. ‘I don’t think I want to know this.’
Carla shrugged. ‘Anytime I want you to do something, I convince you it would be stupid and annoying.’
Eddi laughed and sat on the bed beside her. ‘You don’t want me to start a band?’
Carla shrugged. ‘Sometimes I forget.’
Eddi pulled a strand of Carla’s shiny black hair. ‘Silly bitch.’” (53)

~ Source: The Glamour of Rock and Roll: War For the Oaks | crunchingsandmunchings

Read Alikes Edit

~ Author Read-alikes | concretefantasy

Notes Edit

One reason War for the Oaks works so well is that Emma grounded all that Seelie stuff by following the age-old advice to “write what you know”. Emma actually did front a rock band in Minneapolis for a long time, and so the setting, and the process of leading a band, come across as absolutely real. ~ smart bitches trashy books

Trivia Edit

See Also Edit

External References Edit

Book—War for the Oaks:

"A Bird that Whistles" (prequel short): 


Free eBooks

The World, Characters, etc:





Community, Fan Sites:

Gallery of Book Covers Edit

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