the war of the flowers

Friday, January 15, 2010 |
Alyce at At Home with Books is doing a weekly feature where she highlights one of her favorite reads from the past and encourages others to do so as well.

I mentioned in this post that I discovered a new love for science fiction and fantasy on the shelves of a musty bookshop in Sevilla, Spain right at a time when I was a bit raw with homesickness. Tad Williams’ The War of the Flowers was one of those books. It was THICK (think 768 pages!), which was a huge point in its favor. I wanted English language familiar comfort, and I wanted a lot of it. It was also about fairies, which I thought I could deal with. And best yet, it had a genuinely pretty cover.

I read the book over a couple of days and just lived in it. You know there are books that convincingly create a whole world? Maybe you connect with the main character, maybe you hate him/her a little bit, but you can’t doubt the reality and vividness of the setting? That’s this book. It was the same way for me with China Mieville’s The Scar. I wasn’t sure that I liked where I was going, but I was helpless to resist the pull of it.

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

He is drawn from his home in Northern California into the parallel world of Faerie, for, unknown to him, he is a pivotal figure in a war between certain of Faerie's powerful lords and the rest of the strange creatures who live in this exotic realm.

As Applecore, an irritated and decidedly punk-like sprite, says, "‘If you believe in fairies, clap your hands'? If you believe in fairies, kiss my rosy pink arse is more like it."

So: The War of the Flowers is undeniably dark in parts. It’s got a lot going on. It’s thick. Why should anyone read it? I think I’ve intimated the stuff I love about it: dark fantasy, flashes of humor, impressive world-building, a really involved story that feels familiar and yet surprises and wows you. But another plus? It’s good even for those who aren’t fans of the genre. I re-gifted this novel to my brother Lincoln, who is famous (in our family) for reading almost exclusively non-fiction. He came back to me after finishing it and wanted to DISCUSS. How often does that happen? It inspired both of us. Yeah, there are a lot of other-worldly elements. But at its center, this is a story about a parallel space, with some of the same problems that regular humans face. In other words, it’s universal. And that’s what makes it great.

What are some 'universal' stories that you find yourself reading over and over?


Alyce said...

My gut reaction to a book about fairies is that I'm not going to like it. However, what you said about this book being universal, and the part about how your brother liked it actually makes me want to give it a chance.

I loved reading The Song of Albion series by Stephen Lawhead. It's one of those books that takes place in this world and another (involving celtic warriors and bards). It's a grand adventure that, like the Narnia books, has Biblical parallels, but if you weren't looking for them I don't think you'd even notice them (I certainly didn't until they were mentioned to me).

Ryan said...

I enjoyed this book, I think I still have it actually. I'm just glad to read I'm not the only one.

brizmus said...

I'd never before heard of this book, but it looks ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! I'm definitely going to have to check it out!!

justpeachy36 said...

Think I might add this one to my To-Be-Read pile.... It's huge LOL!

Unknown said...

I really enjoyed the Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy by Williams, but I haven't read anything else by him. But I know what you mean by his world-building skills, they're incredible.

Ryan said...

I just came back by to tell you that I have an award for you.

kanishk said...

the part about how your brother liked it actually makes me want to give it a chance.

Work from home India

Tales of Whimsy said...

O I love when books spark conversation :) I love this cover too!

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