Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Book Review: The War of the Flowers by Tad Wililams

This isn’t going to be a long review, fact being its harder to write about something you actually like rather than something you hate with every fiber of your being.

Tad Williams is an author I’ve liked for a long time; a friend started me on the Dragon Bone Chair more than a decade ago and I’ve read most of everything he’s done.

I liked War of the Flowers because it’s not entirely Fantasy (well it’s fantasy but…) and it’s not entirely Urban Fantasy (a little bit, but without Werewolves and badly written sex) but something uniquely Tad Williams.

Let’s give a brief summary (also – spoilers):

Theo Vilmos is kind of an ordinary guy; he lives in San Francisco, sings in a band, has a girlfriend and is just sort of muddling through life, as most people do.

That’s until things start going very wrong; his girlfriend suffers a miscarriage and subsequently breaks up with him, his mother dies, eaten slowly by cancer and upon her death learns something strange. His mother, on her deathbed, seems to think that Theo is not her child and regrets not loving him like she should have.(For anybody who reads lore, remember the story of the Foundling? Of how the Fair Folk used to steal human babies and replace them with fairy folk - usually some nasty imp-like creature? uh huh, I'll say no more.)

After receiving her possessions he is lead on a strange journey that starts with a journal and ends with Theo being drawn into a modern Fairyland, but a Fairyland like none you’ve ever seen.

This one isn’t a Disney acid trip of helpful creatures, sweet princesses and fairy godmothers- it’s a world full of class divide, lethal politics and ordinary people-er, fairies just trying to make living.

Let’s start with some really amazing things that make Tad Williams an awesome author.

He managed to take something fantastical, like Fairyland of Oberon and Tatiana, and translated it into how that world would look realistically – no great Heroes or Princesses, no adorable animal sidekick who lives and breathes to serve the Hero, just real creatures, real beings who live in a class conscious society, who work, pay rent, party, sorrow, and live just as we do.

I’ll say it again, an awesome author makes his or her worlds real.

Theo isn’t a Hero, hell he can barely take care of himself. He’s not Special – born to be good at everything, strong, handsome perfect, boring. He’s just some guy who got drawn into a political battle that will change the shape of both worlds.

The villains are complex and the characters that make up the human and fairy worlds are as anybody – an unquantified mix of both good and bad.

Our second main protagonist is a feisty, vicious tongued six inch pixie by the name of Applecore who, on more than one occasion, kicks Theo’s ass in an older sisterly kind of way. The entire book is worth reading just for her.

As with most of Tad Williams work the War of the Flowers is very richly detailed, full of faraway places and creative danger and terror. As with most of his books, it’s also well padded – not quite seven hundred pages.

See what I mean about books you like? It’s well done, its complex, its realistic given it takes place in Fairyland and its worth reading. The end.

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