War for the Oaks.
Orb Books, 2001.
“Urban fantasy” is relatively new as a fantasy sub-genre. Certainly my first exposure to urban fantasy was via the deserved popularity of the Borderlands shared universe. Borderlands
created a new genre space for heroic fantasy in an urban setting. Bull’s work is often cited as an example of “urban fantasy,” but in War for the Oaks she makes Minneapolis as full of wonder as Tír nan Og. War for the Oaks is about an otherworld intruder, a pooka who shape-shifts into a large black dog, and Eddi McCandry, a mortal musician who becomes an unwilling pawn in a fairy civil war.
Bull draws on fairy folklore throughout her novel, and uses it to create fully realized characters rather then mere types. Bull begins with a solid foundation of traditional fairy folklore and makes it new, in large part because she has interestingly real characters. Eddi McCandry isn’t another calque on Janet from the ballad of Tam Lin; she’s Eddi McCandry. And the Pooka isn’t exactly like anything or anyone else either. Bull has also captured the essence of Fey game-playing and ethics here, and all of it in fabulous dialog. This is a book that you really should read if you have any interest in contemporary fantasy at all, since it has very much helped shape the genre. Plus, it’s really really good.
Emma Bull and Will Shetterly have co-written War for the Oaks: The Screenplay. I keep hoping someday Bull will record all the songs.