“A big, involving adventure… an accomplished and ambitious fantasist.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“A masterpiece of fairy-tale world-building, with a Faerie land that eerily mirrors the real world. The tone is often dark, but rich, building a wondrous setting in a fascinating world, with a classic reluctant hero and a cause worth cheering for.” —Locus
“The War of the Flowers is Williams’s best book in years. It’s engaging and hints at a story beyond the story: the kind of thing that makes a reader wish that the book would last a bit longer, let her see a bit more of the story.” —Bookslut
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.
“Travel into another dimension is a popular fantasy ploy, but rarely accomplished with such humor, terror and even logic… Williams’s imagination is boundless, and if this big book could have been shorter, it could just as easily have been longer.” —Publishers Weekly
“[A]n 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.” —Library Journal
“Williams displays a deft hand, creating an addictive world with its own history, mythology, internal rules, and rich, intricate culture… The world of Faerie turns out to have everything a fantasy fan could desire… Even as he weaves his ‘make-believe’ world… Williams simultaneously delivers moments of grandeur and potency that fit snugly into a Tolkienesque tradition. But he does it with a modern sensibility — imagine a Tolkien who listened to Metallica — and he has more up his sleeve than thwarting the legions of doom…. The evil fairy lords are appropriately nasty, the mystery of how the king and queen died in the Giant Wars several centuries earlier is acceptably intriguing, and the sidekick sprite Applecore is a sassy delight… [W]hile readers will relish a fantasy novel that belongs in the top tier of those currently being produced, that masterfully plays with all the tropes and traditions of generations of fantasy writers, they will also become absorbed in Theo’s real quest, which has nothing to do with sword wielding or inner powers or ‘greatness’ by any commonly understood definition. His real quest is to become, basically, a good guy and a stand-up mensch.” —Andrew Leonard, Salon.com
© 2003 by Tad Williams
Jacket art by Michael Whelan
Paperback: 832 pages
Publisher: DAW (May 4, 2004)