The War of the Flowers


Tad Williams


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

October 5, 2005

found The War of the Flowers to be a big disappointment: bloated, meandering and a waste of time. It moved so slowly that I suspected I had inadvertently picked up the first book of a multivolume series - but it turns out that 816 pages in my paperback edition are indeed the entire story. The War for the Flowers doesn't even kick off until page 400.

The unlikeable protagonist in this unwieldy volume is Theo Vilmos. My biggest complaint about him is his stupidity. At several points in the novel Tad Williams has Theo say the dumbest things! Theo's encounter with the scary Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles (that really is the villan's name) dissolves into such a poor showing by Theo that I wanted one of the guardians to squash him flat. There are plenty of novels where the lead character is an anti-hero, but I wonder how many successful novels feature a really stupid hero?

Theo is being chased by an unstoppable irrha, a relentless force that can occupy any person (dead or alive). Unfortunately, the irrha shows up so intermittently, that you completely forget about it's existence for long stretches - there is no menace, no building up suspense as this relentless creature gets uncloser. Instead, the irrah is out of sight, out of mind, until Williams has the irrah make its next appearance to kick his stalled the plot forward.

Theo's companions are just as unlikeable as he is. Poppy Thornapple is the love interest, she is 105 years old, but since that is still young in the lifespan of elves, Tad Williams unconvincingly portrays her as an insecure teenager. How can any one live to 105 and not have learned to deal with rejection from a boyfriend?

Applecore is supposed to be Theo's sassy sidekick, but this little sprite is merely annoying. Cumber is the wise friend who rails against injustice (the whole novel reeks of political correctness) but comes across as tedious. The scenes where Cumber gets drunk and speaks his mind are embarrassing.

Why is Anton Hellebore so bent on destroying all humanity? Why does the Clover Effect limit the number of trips between the mortal world and fairy (other than the fact that this is needed as a plot device)? Just because the magic in the land of fairy follows rules, why does Tad Williams think that it is therefore a "science"?? Does Williams believe that anything that has rules is a science? Then I guess the card game Crazy Eights is also a science?

This book ekes out two stars, when it might easily have been award a lowly single star, because there is one section in the middle where Theo is caught in the dragons attack. This was pretty well done, and I hoped that the novel was going to pick from that point forward. Alas, it does not. If you want to read an "urban fantasy" that shows some real imagination, try The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick instead, it is infinitely better than the Bore of the Flowers.