The War of the Flowers
Tad Williams
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Buy *The War of the Flowers* online The War of the Flowers
Tad Williams
832 pages
May 2004
rated 5 of 5 possible stars

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Theo Vilmos enjoys the carefree life he has come to lead. He's thirty years old, still singing in garage bands with teenage bandmates, working part time delivering flowers, and living with his pregnant girlfriend, Cat. When he comes home one night to find her lying in a pool of blood on the bathroom floor, Theo's fun-filled days turn grim. What follows that nightmarish evening when Cat loses their baby are a series of events that make Theo's life miserable. Cat leaves him, he loses his job at the flower shop, and his mother dies of cancer - all within the span of a few short months.

Beginning to think that the worst that could happen already has, Theo sells his mother's house and rents a cabin in the woods, as far away from civilization as he can get. There, going through some of his mother's boxes, he learns about a safety deposit box left by one of his great-uncles. In the box, he discovers nothing more exciting than a leather-bound notebook. His great-uncle's journal describes a magical world called Faerie in great detail, and although a scribbled note specifies that the writing is a work of fiction, Theo begins to suspect that it is largely autobiographical.

One night, while reading the journal, Theo gets a visit from a real live fairy. Applecore is half a foot tall with translucent wings, an Irish accent and the ability to curse like a sailor. Taken aback, and believing himself to be dreaming, Theo is hospitable to the redheaded woman - even though she's the size of a ballpoint pen. After serving her tea in the cap of a beer bottle, Theo gets another visitor, and this one isn't nearly as friendly as Applecore. In fact, it's grotesque and terrifying, only vaguely resembling human shape, and Theo can't mistake its murderous intent. Before he has time to realize what's going on, Applecore opens a portal and saves them both from the apparition by thrusting them into Fairyland.

Theo's adventures in the world of Faerie are as exciting for the reader as they are for Theo himself. Tad Williams has created an in-depth realm that seems as real as our world does, even though it's populated with some of the strangest characters to ever appear between the pages of a fantasy novel. Theo quickly comes to realize that things in Faerie are even stranger than his great-uncle had described, and he finds himself in the middle of a conflict between the ruling fairy houses.

Theo is endearing as the main character in The War of the Flowers. Most days, he only struggles to stay alive in a confusing, menacing environment. There's something appealing about a hero who doesn't understand his heroic qualities, instead seeing himself as a normal, uninteresting sort of fellow. Theo's growth throughout the novel is remarkable. He learns to function in a world full of danger and peril and yet dominated by the same forces as Theo's own. In the process, he learns that he has more courage than he ever gave himself credit for, and he manages to play a large role in the political turmoil that threatens to destroy both Faerie and the mortal realm.

The benign, comforting tales of fairies that we grew up with as children are turned on their head through Williams's masterful storytelling, in a world populated by mythical fantasy creatures, slavery, prejudice, and a desire for power are as evident and destructive as they are in our own world. The War of the Flowers is an in-depth, thought provoking novel that urges the reader to think about a myriad of important issues by exploring them through the veil of a fantasy setting.

If you're looking for a captivating, hard to put down fantasy novel filled with fascinating characters and thought-provoking themes, look no further than The War of the Flowers.

2003 by Liz Cooper for Curled Up With a Good Book

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