Page name: Book Review: The War of the Flowers [Exported view] [RSS]
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2006-12-13 06:34:36
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A well written volume whose subtitle should so be 'Faerie for Dummies'

A review by [Mister Saint] of Tad Williams's The War of the Flowers

I'm not going to number rate this, because it wouldn't be fair. Over the course of 816 pages the quality of this book leaps up and down like the guilty member of a married man in strip bar. At times it is a riveting, fast-paced mindfuck that is brilliantly executed. At times it is touching, and connected me to the characters intimately. At other times it is a dreary, depressing thing that made me want to give up reading and writing of fantasy completely. Even further, towards the end it was a vile dissertation of rambling, endless history of the land, architecture of the land, family lines of the land, more history of the land, unnecessary intrigue, scenes that should have been cut out, and grueling essays on regional politics.

Overall: A good read for the patient who aren't aversed to skipping large chunks of the book. Inventive, though, and thoroughly constructed.

Plot: The plot of this was, imaginative setting and history aside, fairly run of the mill. Reluctant hero, spunky sidekick, evil enemies and a mastermind bent on ruling the world. It's been done a billion times, but has a nice freshness to it that another author would've been hard pressed to pull off. Even with its convoluted setup and pages upon pages of 'the clans have fought over X because of X and let me tell you why. Listen up,' the storyline is sound.

Characterization: Dozens of characters, all reasonably well characterized. I got the idea that the author paid more attention to certain sub characters than some of the main ones, especially on the villain side, but overall it was air tight. The smart mouthed side kick was splendidly done. The only irritations I found were that the bad guys seemed a little bit too smiliar to one another, and the main character made me want to hit him in the face.

It was well conveyed that Theo was awkward and uncomfortable with his new situation, but I swear, he reacted to everything the same way. "I'll never get used to this place," he said ten thousand times when he saw something new. And the endless questions! He was like a billboard that read 'mister plot device, please start talking about history of Faerie/culture/politics/intrigue/architecture/botany for a while!' The author couldn't seem to weave this information into the story itself, and so used Theo's pervasive inquisitions as setups for his lectures.

Literary elements: Lots of heavy description, the place was well fleshed out to my eyes. Good imagery, compelling transitions between sections... a well-written work.


This book was six hundred pages too long. Tad Williams should have just written a second book, a standalone volume called 'Every goddamn thing you ever could possibly know about Faerie in triplicate' and cut the huge glut of that information from the war of the flowers. I lost sight of the storyline a dozen times towards the end when the author threw those massive chunks of information at me, to the point that I'll admit to skipping over a hundred and fifty pages of the book towards the end (in total, not all at once).

And I missed nothing of the story itself. There's a fine line between 'well built world' and 'Gah! I don't need to be a scholar on it, event already! Gar!' and Williams crosses that line, dropkicks it, and shovels trout on it. In particular, the various characters' explanations of things can run whole pages with individual paragraphs... so much of it needed to just be inferred, but oh well. I don't miss the hair I was tearing out in frustration. ^^

Concerning violence... this author has no sense of decorum where violence is concerned. He goes into quite a bit of detail where cut open bellies, miscarriages, dead animals, and such are concerned and I found it vastly unnecessary and detrimental to the plot. The difference between a death scene in a movie and in a book is that our eyes process visual so fast that a quick scene rarely bothers us. In this book, even a quick scene was described in deep detail and it was just unnecessary. It was hard to smile, reading this thing.

The first seventy pages of this thing were pure torture. It was about a hundred pages before the narrative hook occurred (in my eyes), and I just wasn't that interested in the hero's personal life. Not a hundred pages of interested, anyway.

Now, there is praise to be given here. The 'white noise' (time between major events) was handled very well. The entire concept of a fairy world is nicely conceived and extremely deep, to the point that no nook of the place goes unknown to us. And very few characters were hit by trucks, thankfully, though Williams does have a penchant for killing them off in droves. Oh, and it had a logical ending that didn't try to swerve us at the last second! The first ending in a while that hasn't pissed me off.

Final word: Despite its long list of flaws, it really is an intriguing tale. However, despite the words 'A Fantasy' appearing beneath the title, this is mostly a long, long, godawfully long political drama. Were this book about three to six hundred pages shorter, it would be vastly improved. As it stands, it's still a recommended read for those with patience.

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