Details: (c) 1987 Emma Bull; Pub 1987 Ace; ISBN 0-441-87073-2
Verdict: War for the oaks is just delightful!
Reasons for reading it: rysmiel recommended it.
How it came into my hands: I went on a crazy book-buying spree when I was visiting rysmiel in Montreal, during which I bought a fair proportion of every single book that had been mentioned in two days' conversation. This was part of that haul.
War for the oaks just made me grin and grin, from the first sentence until the last, at which point I stopped being immensely happy and became immensely frustrated that the book is over and there isn't any more to read. The first thing that hooked me is the really lovely language; not overly florid or pretentious, but it made my skin tingle. And then I imediately liked Eddi as a heroine, and then something really dramatic happened at the end of the first chapter. So the rest of WftO lived up to that very good first impression: the writing continues at that calibre throughout, and the characterization just gets better as one learns more about the cast, and the story is really exciting and... *grin grin grin*
WftO does the urban fantasy thing exquisitely well. The urban part works; it's not just set up in the first chapter as a contrast to the more interesting fantasy setting. Eddi is very much part of this twentieth century world, but she doesn't do the cliched thing of panicking and flailing around trying to find rational explanations for the obviously supernatural occurrences. Yes, she's initially skeptical, but she believes the evidence of her senses and gets on with dealing with the situation she finds herself in. And the fantasy bit is lovely; there's solid mythological background, and there's also a really strong sense of the way the faery realm interacts with the mundane world. It isn't trapped in a timewarp of Victorian-style bucolic idyll, but it neither is it completely part of history. I loved the throwaway line about a brownie being really formidable in battle, since doing housework requires real strength.
I loved the emphasis on friendship as well as romance. WftO is rather heavy on the romance side, though; I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who gets annoyed with soppy stuff, or really to anyone male (with a very few exceptions). It's good romance, as far as that goes; Bull does really capture the emotional intensity of falling in love, and I enjoyed the portrayal of the intense, sudden coup-de-foudre as well as the kind of love that arises out of deep friendship. I did get a bit annoyed with Eddi making a big speech about how it's terrible to have sex if it's not for a Higher Purpose, but that's a minor criticism and my annoyance probably reflects my own biases. I think I would have been more prepared to buy the phouka as a romantic hero if I'd read the book when I was a bit younger, but he still does work well as a character.
The other thing that's great about WftO is the structure. I really appreciated the way that the climactic great battle between the two fairy factions happens in the middle of the book rather than at the end, and the book goes on to explore the effects on Eddi's life of having got involved with Faery and become an unwilling hero. The actual ending felt a tiny bit overdone, but the book had to end somewhere and it's one way of handling a secondary climax.
darcydodo, you so have to read this!