Sometimes, you just need a little bit of fantasy in your life to spice up the banality of the everyday. But sometimes, a little hit of pixie dust can be a tough, and dangerous trip. For this week’s Give It a Shot–you know, that column where we writers wax poetic about things that we just love and highly recommend — we’re going to take a quick look at a fantasy novel that deserves a chance: Tad William’s The War of the Flowers.
Don’t let the name fool you–there’s all sorts of political scandal and struggle, orphans, washed-up rockstars, and fairies hellbent on world-destruction–to keep you hungry to read more.
The War of the Flowers follows the strange life and misadventures of Theo Vilmos, a thirty-something rockstar with a chip on his shoulder and a mediocre record. Hitting an all-time low, he seeks refuge in an isolated cabin in the woods, only to stumble upon an odd memoir written by a dead relative claiming to have discovered a magical, parallel world of Faerie. But before Theo can disregard the book as nonsense, he finds himself not only drawn into the ravings of a supposed madman–but into the world of Faerie itself.
Again, names are deceptive and Fairies are dangerous folk. Tad Williams’ colorful cast of characters and world-building draw inspiration more from the idea of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts of Irish folklore–which included interesting hierarchies of benevolent and malicious little spritely beings–than say Disney’s fussy Tinkerbell. The world of Faerie is governed by warring factions that view the human interference of Theo as an opportunity for political mongering–and for other sorts of unsavory, warring faction-driven plot points.
Tad Williams has a knack for creating engrossing worlds and unique characters, but what wins the most for The War of the Flowers is the depiction of fairy lore. For beings that appear quite frequently in say children’s literature, the true changeling, devious and cunning nature of fairies shine in Williams’ work, and provide that unique twist on mythological beasts that have been sanitized for easier consumption. Williams’ give fairies back their teeth and their temperament to great affect as our disillusioned hero, Theo, navigates this strange new world.
So if you’re tired of the whole certian-fantasy-beings-are-tied-to-lawful-good, and if you have a strong interest in expanding your fantasy-genre horizons, definitely pick up Tad Wiliams’ The War of the Flowers. Plus, it’s a pretty hefty one-shot book–there’s no worry about finishing this story too quickly. Thus, with its unique take on old fairy legends it wins for excellent world-building and is a neat introduction to getting familiar with a legend amongst fantasy fiction that deserves a shot.