I’d been avoiding War of the Flowers for about a year. The Forword to the story mentioned that some elements had been revised due to the events of September 11, 2001 to spare the reader sensibilities, but that others had been left as they were. There was an apology and a message stating that the author hoped readers would take the story as it stood and not be too tramatized by its similarity. This note alarmed me greatly - what sort of similarity must there be for the author to apologize like that? But finally, I faced up to the avoidance and decided that I should either read the book or get rid of it.
I must admit, I’m a Tad Williams fan. I’ve loved his stories since I first read Tailchasers Song as a child. The Otherland series was one that I loved so much I shared it with my mother and encouraged my husband to read it. However, a four book series is rather exhausting, particularly when the novels are about 1000 pages apiece. This was the first of his in a long time that was a standalone novel, which was a relief as I didn’t want to commit to another long series (if I wanted to do that, I’d read Robert Jordan novels).
War of the Flowers was a clever fantasy story, couched in familiar concepts of Faerie but departing from the overused stereotype of an idyllic land without strife. In fact, the caste system is so finely tuned in Williams’ Faerie that the characters hardly realize there are other ways to live. His use of new conflicts, technologies and cross-dimensional travel give the story a fresh feeling sadly lacking in Fantasy genre fiction.
The story is very quickly paced; Williams loses none of his ambition for the three volume novel in his use of the single volume format, so the story is complex and multi-faceted. The main plot is straightforward, but contains many twists and turns as the sub-plots grab hold of the main character and force him down unexpected paths. In addition, there are very few scenes that exist solely for dissemination of background information that may, or may not, be relevant to the plotline. This is one element that the shortened format has thankfully forced Williams to abandon.
I really enjoyed this story, and frankly, I don’t think that Williams needed to include the foreword warning. The scene he alludes to would never have struck me as similar to the events of 9/11/01 if he hadn’t mentioned it. I definitely recommend this book, particularly to those that like Williams style but don’t want to commit to 3+ volumes.