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10041Tad Williams: The War of the Flowers

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  • Olaf Keith
    Sep 3, 2003
      Hi folks,
      I am new to the list, and I wanted to ask if anyone here is
      considering to nominate Tad Williams´s new stand-alone novel THE WAR
      OF THE FLOWERS for the next Mythopoeic Award?

      It has been getting some fabulous reviews, and it´s a weird and
      wonderful read.

      From Publishers Weekly
      Travel into another dimension is a popular fantasy ploy, but rarely
      accomplished with such humor, terror and even logic as in this
      stand-alone by bestseller Williams (Tailchaser's Song, etc.). After
      losing his girlfriend, Theo Vilmos, a singer in a humdrum northern
      California rock band, finds in his late mother's remote cabin an
      amazing if incomplete manuscript left by his eccentric great-uncle,
      Eamonn Dowd, about a fairy world purportedly visited by its author.
      Unsurprisingly, Faerie turns out to be a real place. Applecore, a
      short-tempered, red-haired sprite, abruptly appears before Theo just
      as a horrifying monster starts banging on the door. At Applecore's
      command, Theo swoops her up and pops through "the Gate" into a magical
      realm that proves initially beguiling, later strange and finally
      deadly. Ironically, Faerie is a distorted image of our own world,
      ruled by cruel fairy tyrants. The powerful classes, each named for a
      flower, wage war against each other, using colossal dragons as the
      equivalents of nuclear bombs. Theo discovers love as well as
      unsuspected secrets of his own birth and family. Williams's
      imagination is boundless, and if this big book could have been
      shorter, it could just as easily have been longer. The incorrigible
      Applecore continually delights, as in her comment on a famous J.M.
      Barrie character: "`If you believe in fairies, clap your hands'? If
      you believe in fairies, kiss my rosy pink arse is more like it."

      Reviewer: Harriet Klausner

      Minor league California rocker Theo Vilmos feels he is at the bottom
      of the food chain when matters turn worse when he loses his pregnant
      girlfriend. Thirty, alone, and his music going nowhere, Theo feels
      down. He decides to get away to relook the direction of his life that
      seems to be in free fall. At his mother's remote cabin, Theo finds an
      ancient looking tome handwritten by his weird Uncle Eamon about
      another realm, that of Faerie.

      Soon Theo is shocked to learn Faerie exists when the sprite Applecore
      arrives at his abode. She escorts the reluctant musician through the
      gate to a magical land that quickly seems quite dismal to the visitor.
      War appears everywhere so much so that Theo feels his home planet
      seems relatively peaceful. While Theo begins to learn secrets about
      his gene pool, he falls in love, but this is a land in which life is
      not precious so he must show caution to survive especially when
      bombardier dragons attack.

      This stand-alone fantasy is a great satirizing of current conditions
      on planet earth as seen through a looking glass mirror. The story line
      is extremely dark and grim yet often humorous as the plot shreds
      anything and everything of proud filled boasts about our compassionate
      great society. Theo is a fine character who serves as the center of
      the myriad of subplots, but it is the cantankerous, nasty Applecore
      who steals the show with her tinkering and editing of words of wisdom.
      A tad wordy, perhaps, but fans of Tad Williams, which probably
      includes Jonathan Swift, will appreciate this cutting faerie tale.

      Harriet Klausner

      The War of the Flowers" by Tad Williams
      This stand-alone fantasy adds the plight of the modern American man to
      its mix of heroic goblins, marauding dragons and evil fairy lords.

      By Andrew Leonard

      June 12, 2003 | In the first 30 pages of Tad Williams' "The War of
      the Flowers," the protagonist's girlfriend dumps him after suffering a
      nasty miscarriage, his mother dies of cancer, and he faces up to the
      unpleasant existential plight of being a 30-year-old rock 'n' roll
      singer in a band going nowhere.

      Yikes. The reader can be excused for rolling his eyes. This is
      supposed to be fantasy, right? Tad Williams is the author of both the
      "Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn" sword-and-sorcery series and the
      "Otherland" quartet of novels, perhaps best described as fantasy
      cyberpunk. He definitely knows his way around the magic kingdom.

      So bring on the damn goblins! The faerie magic, fellowship of heroes,
      and talismanic quest! Enough with the hospital beds and the dead
      fetuses. What about the serious malevolence, the absolute Eeh-vuhl
      brooding on universal domination? Who needs another tiresome batch of
      all-too-familiar real-life woe? I got enough of that in my own life.
      Fantasy is supposed to take me somewhere else.

      I should have had more faith.

      San Francisco Chronicle
      Tad Williams, author of "The Dragonbone Chair" and "Otherland: Sea of
      Silver Light," isn't exactly a minimalist when it comes to fantasy.
      Most of his novels run more than 500 pages and often to multiple
      volumes. His latest, The War of the Flowers (DAW; 686 pages; $24.95)
      has the expected high page count, but this time Williams restricts his
      saga to a single book, taking his readers on a fast-paced and exciting
      tour of Faerie.

      After his girlfriend experiences a miscarriage and breaks up with him,
      unsuccessful rock musician Theo Vilmos believes that his life in San
      Francisco can't get much worse. But then his mother dies, and Theo
      retreats to a cabin in the Santa Cruz mountains, taking with him a
      journal left by his great-uncle,

      Eamon Dowd. Eamon claimed to have visited the magical world of Faerie,
      but Theo isn't inclined to believe his story, until a supernatural
      assassin arrives on his doorstep and a tiny winged woman named
      Applecore saves his life by pushing him through a portal into another

      Theo finds himself in Faerie, the ethereal plane peopled by goblins,
      sprites, trolls, pookas and other bizarre creatures. Ruled by seven
      houses with horticultural names, Faerie is ripe for civil war, and
      Theo has an unexpected role to play in the struggle.

      Williams uses the traditional trappings of British folklore and
      expands their potential to create a well-realized world of magic and
      menace. It takes the plot a fair amount of time, however, to rev up.
      There's a lot of sightseeing and unnecessary running around before the
      story drops into gear during its second half. Nevertheless, Williams
      accomplishes a handful of neat narrative tricks as Theo matures enough
      to alter the course of Faerie's history -- and his own.

      "The War of the Flowers" is a big, involving adventure. For those
      readers who would like to experience Williams' storytelling without
      committing themselves to a couple thousand pages and a year or two
      between installments, it's a great introduction to an accomplished and
      ambitious fantasist.

      Library Journal
      Struggling rock musician Theo Vilmos has nightmares, a pregnant
      girlfriend, an aloof mother, and only one good friend-until the bottom
      falls out of his world, leaving him alone and down on his luck. His
      discovery of a book written by a long-dead relative launches a series
      of events that plummet him headlong into the land of Faerie and
      thrusts him into the middle of a political and social maelstrom.
      Hunted by the ruling families of Faerie, Theo finds an unlikely ally,
      a foul-mouthed sprite named Applecore, who introduces him to the
      complexities of life in another world. As his understanding of the
      realm's dark secrets grows, Theo becomes caught up in a full-scale
      revolution that could mean freedom for the downtrodden "lesser"
      faeries or a gruesome death for himself and, possibly, the end of his
      world. Williams's latest novel draws on the faerie lore of many
      nations, putting an intriguing new twist on old legends. Strong
      storytelling and memorable characters make this standalone cross-world
      fantasy the author's best work to date and a priority purchase for
      fantasy collections. Highly recommended. Copyright 2003 Reed Business

      The Barnes & Noble Review
      In this single-volume fantasy, Tad Williams takes a struggling
      30-year-old musician named Theo Vilmos and throws him into a magical
      realm on the verge of war.
      Theo's life is not turning out the way he had planned: His girlfriend
      recently had a miscarriage while he was out late, practicing with his
      dead-end garage band, when he should've been home with her. After she
      loses the baby, she promptly breaks up with him and kicks him out of
      the house. Hoping to get his life back on track, he moves in with his
      estranged mother, only to find her dying of cancer. Her death and
      funeral are a blur for Theo, who now has no family, no friends, and no
      plans for the future. While going through his mother's belongings as
      he prepares to sell the house, Theo finds a manuscript written by his
      great-uncle, a diary of sorts that describes a visit to the realm of
      the Fey and life in an industrial city ruled by powerful, immortal

      Before Theo knows it, a fairy saves his life from a demon sent to kill
      him, and he is transported to the world his great-uncle wrote about.
      But he quickly realizes he is not who -- or what -- he thought he

      While the subject of changelings has been explored numerous times,
      Williams keeps the theme fresh by incorporating his trademarks of
      wonderfully complex plot twists, masterful character development, and
      expeditious pacing. Highly recommended. Paul Goat Allen

      Romantic Times
      Theo Vilmos is a garage band singer with no ambition. When his
      girlfriend miscarries their baby and kicks him out of her life, Theo
      thinks he's hit rock-bottom. Then he finds his great-uncle's diary and
      reads about another world—a world of fairy. When a monster tries to
      kill Theo and he's rescued by a foul-mouthed sprite named Applecore,
      Theo discovers the diary isn't fiction. Applecore forces Theo into a
      one-way trip into the land of Faerie, which isn't anything Theo had
      imagined. Fairy steeds share the road with magic-powered autos,
      skyscrapers are next to hovels, telephones and electricity. However,
      separate factions want Theo—either dead or in their control. Tad
      Williams' THE WAR OF THE FLOWERS (4.5) is an intense urban fantasy of
      fairies, changelings and the end of the world. Readers who like Emma
      Bull's War for the Oaks or Mercedes Lackey's SerrATED Edge series will
      enjoy Williams' richly detailed, fully developed world of mortal vs.
      fairy. (Jun., 656 pp., $24.95)

      —Kelly Rae Cooper

      Reviewed by Hilary Williamson from doubleloon.com
      There is a strong vein of horror running through Tad Williams' War of
      the Flowers. It opens on a hellebore and a cold figure manipulating
      events, like a spider at the center of a palatial web. He speaks to
      the 'Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles' about a coming war and a child
      who must not live.

      An abrupt juxtaposition sends us to San Francisco in the human world,
      where misfit musician Theo Vilmos learns of his girlfriend's sudden
      miscarriage and soon afterwards loses his mother to cancer. Dealing
      with her effects, he finds a book written by his great uncle Eamonn
      Dowd that speaks of a strange journey to a world of Faerie. And that
      world soon comes after him, when the plotting of misnamed Flowers
      (cruel Faerie aristos) sends a Frankenstein monster lurching into
      Theo's world to bring him back to theirs. Why is mortal Theo important
      to them and who or what is their 'Terrible Child'?

      Theo is saved by a small tough-talking sprite named Applecore, who
      opens a window to 'a colorless void that crashed like ocean waves and
      sparkled like stars.' But don't start to imagine a typical 'Storybook
      Land'. This Faerie, searching for a new source of power after the loss
      of its King and Queen in the Second Gigantine War, has developed a new
      technology, powered by sacrifice. Applecore, 'a miniature John LeCarré
      out of a box of Cracker Jacks', guides Theo through a morass of plots
      and counterplots, revolution and betrayal. He finds Eamonn's book
      rather 'like someone gave me a manual on lion-taming to read, but
      didn't warn me I was about to be smothered with gravy and parachuted
      into the African veldt.'

      On a train ride with both the monster and local constables in pursuit,
      Theo is helped on a whim by teenage (only a hundred) Flower Poppy
      Thornapple, 'a glamorous Goth princess'. Soon he finds himself in the
      middle of a horrendous Faerie War, that begins with a 9/11 like attack
      on a Flower tower home (an Author's Note at the beginning explains
      that this was outlined in January 2000). There are wild goblins out of
      a surreal Wild West, flaming dragons used in contravention of prior
      treaties, kamikaze fairy attacks, and brave resistance fighters led by
      a small goblin named Mud Bug Button. Theo is at sea, 'missing a place
      where I know the rules ... where I'm not always having to guess.'

      Of course, there are revelations about Theo's background, about Eamonn
      Dowd and about the Terrible Child. Our hero meets the bad guys in the
      usual unequal confrontation, but music, 'a secret language' to Theo,
      ultimately saves him and two worlds from devastation and reminds him
      of what he is and where he wants to be. The tale ends happily ever
      after, 'One day at a time.' Though the action sometimes moves slowly
      through Williams' complex Faerie world, he's given us an impressive
      feat of imagination and a great read.

      Yet another review from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (by
      Michelle West)
      The War of the Flowers, by Tad Williams, is another departure. If
      Williams can be accused of anything, it is not repeating himself.
      Tailchaser's Song was a Watership Down for cats (and cat lovers),
      Memory, Sorrow and Thorn was a wonderfully characterized classic
      fantasy, and Otherland was a foray into the realms of virtual reality.
      Williams's newest novel is a stand-alone, and it takes place — or
      rather begins — in the here and now, with the midlife crisis of a
      thirty-year-old musician who never quite made it big.

      Theo Vilmos is part of a band. This is nothing new to him. But his
      girlfriend is expecting their first child, and that is. Things spiral
      out of control very quickly — or out of Theo's control — and his life
      begins to lurch from one crisis to another. In the hands of a lesser
      writer, this would be an almost unforgiveable amount of pointless
      pathos — but in the hands of Williams, with his attention to detail
      and his ability to make Theo's pain and confusion real, it's perfect.
      In the end, left with nothing, Theo retreats to a log cabin to rethink
      and reinvent his life.

      And his life is reinvented, but not in the manner he intended —
      because, in spite of the fact that he's a passive drifter, he's also
      sane. Two unexpected visitors make their way to his retreat — the
      first a walking corpse, and the second a very short, very
      feisty…faery. The first convinces Theo to listen to the second, and
      when she opens some sort of odd hole in the air, he jumps through and
      finds himself in a very different universe.

      The pastoral, medieval world of the Faerie is not for Williams. His
      Faerie are peopled by a diversity of creatures — none of them human —
      and a power structure that resembles something Victorian, if you don't
      count cave trolls, little flying faeries, and warring, fractious
      Faerie clans. He carries with him the diaries of his dead uncle,
      Eamonn Dowd, a man who claims to have visited these lands, and,
      accompanied by the diminutive and demanding Applecore, the winged
      creature who saved his life, he begins his travels through that land,
      hunted from the start by unknown adversaries who clearly don't have
      his welfare at heart.

      On the road, he discovers a lot about himself, makes friends, and even
      begins to recover from his grief at the loss of his previous life —
      but not without cost, and not without confronting the weaknesses that
      led to the disasters of his other life. As in the best of fantasy
      novels, Theo Vilmos discovers who he is, and what he is, and learns in
      the end what bravery, that antiquated out-of-date concept, truly

      For readers who adore de Lint's contemporary fantasy, this is a must
      read; for people who have appreciated anything else that Williams has
      done, this is also highly recommended. I'm not sure what Williams will
      try next — I'd love to see what he'd do with a high tech sf setting —
      but it's clear that wherever he's going, it's worth following.
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