The War of the Flowers
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The War of the Flowers

by Tad Williams
Release date: May 2003
Type: speculative fiction
Genres: fantasyurban fantasy
Tags: fairies

Cover: Michael Whelan.

Theo Vilmos' life is about to take a real turn for the worse.

Not that it was ever that great — spending the last decade of his life as a singer in a succession of not terribly successful Northern California rock bands isn't exactly a dream come true. But what can Theo do? When his girlfriend Cat gets pregnant, it seems like it's time to give up his irresponsible dreams and settle down. Until now, Theo has always skated through life — getting by on good looks and charm but short on accomplishments, never quite fitting in. The only place that he's ever felt truly right, the only world to which he's ever really belonged, is onstage, enveloped in music, singing his heart out. But isn't that a pretty immature way for a thirty-four-year-old to feel? Now Cat is pregnant and things are going to change big time. Theo will be forced to change, too. So maybe this is a good thing — just what he needs.

But, as Theo discovers, he hasn't hit bottom yet, not by a long shot. He soon finds himself alone, heartbroken, and plagued by a recurring nightmare — and he can't shake the feeling that these bad things are happening to him for a reason. When he comes across a mysterious old letter from his grandmother's brother, a man named Eamonn Dowd, and with it the key to a safe deposit box, he decides to investigate. What he finds is an old handwritten book.

Seeking solace and escape in a cabin in the woods, Theo begins to read his great-uncle's book and quickly becomes mesmerized. Dowd writes of another world — the world of Faerie — but it is nothing like the familiar fairyland of childhood stories.

Caught up in the book's compelling tale, Theo begins to hear strange sounds and experience odd fears. Then one night, all his fears manifest when a horrifying thing tries to break through his front door — a terrible hunting-spirit in the body of a dead man.

Terrified and trapped, Theo is saved only by the intervention of a tiny, foul-mouthed, winged sprite named Applecore, who transports him through a surreal portal into the realm of Faerie. But this fairyland is even darker and more bizarrely modern than Eamonn Dowd had described, similar to the mortal world yet dangerously different, and although he can't imagine why, there are creatures in it who intend Theo Vilmos serious harm.

Chased by corpselike cave trolls and the undead spirit which had pursued him from his own world, at the mercy of immortal beings whose personal and political affiliations are bafflingly unclear, and with only the reluctant sprite Applecore for a guide, Theo begins a journey that will lead him from the palace-towers of the most powerful and treacherous of the fair folk to the camps of rebel goblins and other places beyond his imagining, on a search for the true meaning of his life — before those who seek him can cut it mercilessly short.

(updated 2018-06-28)

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Reviews (1)

Olaf avatar
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4.0
Tad Williams is one of the most inventive fantasy writers working today. He is also one of the very few fantasy writers who takes great care not to repeat himself. So, instead of cranking out one Osten Ard trilogy after the other, he has delved deeply into fairy lore and has written THE WAR OF THE FLOWERS. His first full-length stand-alone novel since his debut novel TAILCHASER'S SONG (1985). Theo Vilmos's journey through an industrialized Fairyland may seem tedious and pointless at times, but ... (more)
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