The War of the Flowers

The War of the Flowers

Infobox Book |
name = The War of the Flowers
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = US Hardcover Edition
author = Tad Williams
illustrator =
cover_artist = Michael Whelan
country = United States
language = English
series =
genre = Fantasy novel
publisher = DAW Books
release_date = May 6, 2003
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 704 (Hardback) & 832 (Paperback)
isbn = ISBN 0-7564-0135-6 (Hardback) & ISBN 0-7564-0181-X (Paperback)

"The War of the Flowers" is a fantasy novel by Tad Williams about a rocker who is drawn into a magical world while reading a book.

Plot introduction

Theo Vilmos is a thirty-year-old lead singer in a marginally successful rock band. Hitting an all-time low, he seeks refuge in an isolated cabin in the woods and reads an odd memoir written by a dead relative who believed he had visited the magical world of Faerie. Before Theo can disregard the account as nonsense, he too is drawn into a place beyond his wildest dreams.

Plot summary

Part One: Goodnight Nobody

Theo Vilmos is a thirty-year old musician who plays in a band consisting mostly of much younger players, who fears that he may have wasted his youth with nothing to show for it. The incredible charisma he once possessed has faded. After Theo's girlfriend Catherine ("Cat") has a miscarriage and dumps him while recovering in the hospital, his life goes from bad to worse and he learns that his mother is dying of pancreatic cancer. He watches his mother wither away and die from the cancer and slips further into depression. After his mother's death, he discovers a book written by his great-uncle, Eamonn Albert Dowd, among his inheritance. Theo assumes the book is a work of fiction as it describes a character who travels the world and eventually discovers an ancient passage into another world full of fairies and other mythical creatures. He quickly discovers the true nature of his uncle's book as he is rescued from the clutches of an ancient disease-spirit known as an irrha by a small fairy named Applecore.

Part Two: Last Exit to Fairyland

Theo finds himself in the magical world described in his uncle's book. He quickly discovers the world to be unfamiliar and dangerous. Fairies come in a range of humanoid and nonhumanoid forms. The more powerful fairies (who look like extremely beautiful humans with elvish features and, unlike fairy commoners, lack wings) are known as Flowers and are divided into several influential families, each named after a different type of flower, the most powerful of which are: Thorn apple, Hellebore, Violet, Lily, Daffodil, Hollyhock and Primrose. The Violets are now extinct, wiped out by the Hellebores in the last War of the Flowers. Other families include Daisy and Foxglove. The families are divided into three factions, those who believe that the fairies should coexist with humans, called Creepers, those who believe that humans should be eradicated, called Chokeweeds, and those who are uncertain what to do, called Coextensives. Passage between the worlds is restricted by the Clover Effect. Each person, human or fairy, has one exemption from the effect; in other words they can only travel once to the other world and then back to their own.

Applecore brings Theo to Count Tansy, a Daisy relative, the fairy who had arranged for Theo's rescue, where he learns that he is to be sent to one of the Flower families in the City but quickly discovers that his escort has been murdered. Tansy sends Theo with an incompetent cousin of his instead. When this cousin is murdered in the train station, Applecore takes it on herself to get Theo to the City safely. She goes against Tansy's orders and rather than escorting Theo to the Foxgloves, she takes him to the Daffodils. Theo learns that political tension is high among the families and discovers that he himself is not actually human but also a fairy, a changeling left on Earth, though none of his new friends and acquaintances know who his real parents were. In a meeting of the families, the Chokeweeds declare war on the Creepers and make a preemptive strike, attacking and killing the leaders of the Creeper Flower houses with a dragon. Fortunately, Theo did not go to the Foxgloves, as they have joined the Chokeweed faction. Count Tansy is a traitor.

Part Three: Flower War

Theo escapes both the burning wreckage from the dragon attack and the irrha, which is still pursuing him, with a fairy servant from Daffodil House, Cumber Sedge, but believes Applecore to have died in the attack. They make their way to a refugee camp where they meet a highly educated goblin named Mud Bug Button who is attempting to start a revolution with the unhappy common fairy populace against the unfair rule of the Flower families. At the camp, Theo meets Caradenus Primrose, now head of Primrose House after his father's death in the attack, and learns of the wrongs that his "great-uncle" Dowd (actually the great-uncle of the child Theo was switched with) inflicted on Caradenus' sister Erephine during Dowd's visit to their world. He also again meets with Poppaea "Poppy" Thornapple, the daughter of a Chokeweed but also one who is responsible for previously saving his life, and is no longer able to deny his feelings for her. Theo and Cumber agree to help Button with a task but refuse to outright join his revolution. While completing the task, Theo learns that Applecore is alive and is being held prisoner by Lord Nidrus Hellebore, the leader of the Chokeweeds and the mastermind of the attack on the Creepers. Theo realized that he has no choice but to try to rescue Applecore, or die in the attempt. On Button's advice, he decides to go ask the Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles, an ancient and powerful but highly selfish fairy, for help. Unbeknownst to Theo, the Remover has been employed by the Creepers to help capture Theo and is responsible for the summoning the irrha, which is now pursuing him.

Part Four: The Lost Child

Theo and Cumber travel to the Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles but are quickly captured and restrained by him. The Remover reveals that he is actually Eamonn Dowd, Theo's "great-uncle". Dowd had made a deal with the previous Remover to replace a human baby with a fairy baby in the mortal realm, giving the human baby to the Remover in exchange for the ability to return to the Fairy world. Dowd stole his own niece's child and replaced him with Theo, who is actually Septimus Violet, the sole survivor of the Violet Flower family. The human baby was given to Lord Hellebore and turned into a "Terrible Child". Dowd was betrayed resulting in his soul being separated from his body. Dowd fought with the previous Remover, stealing his body and becoming the new Remover of Inconvenient Obstacles. Dowd wants to use Theo for his own ambitions of power but is interrupted by Hellebore's minions. Having infiltrated and bugged the Remover's lair, Hellebore launches a surprise attack, kidnapping Theo while killing the Remover and burning the lair down.

Theo is transported to Hellebore house, where he is reunited with Applecore. He is then transported to Midnight, the heart of the Fairy world, while Button's revolution bears down in full force outside, accomplished by destroying the artifact bearing the physical contract made between fairies and goblins. Theo learns that the Terrible Child is to be used to unleash the horror of Old Night on the mortal realm, ruining it and giving Lord Hellebore untold power. Theo is to be used as the key to open the portal to accomplish this, using the special authority he inherited as the lord of Violet House. Per an old agreement, the key to Old Night can only be used by Violet and Hellebore together. Theo attempts to resist the Terrible Child draining him of his power but fails. In the midst of his failure the irrha appears again, only interested in destroying Theo. Theo sacrifices himself to the water nymphs, causing the irrha to attack the Terrible Child - now the closest living thing resembling Theo's essence. The Terrible Child is destroyed and Hellebore is killed in the resulting calamity, saving the mortal realm and ending the war.

Part Five: Fairy-Tale Ending

Theo's freedom from the water nymphs is bought at a high price by Caradenus Primrose. Theo is reunited with Poppy and learns that Applecore and Cumber are now involved. Button is sentenced to death by goblin law for breaking the goblin oath but dies a hero and leaves behind a world of fairies free from the power of the Flower families. Dowd visits Theo, revealing that he stole the body of a Hellebore guard in the confrontation with Hellebore's minions and escapes again, threatening to simply continue stealing bodies if he is pursued. Theo finally decides to remain in the fairy world with his new found friends and life, not to mention his love Poppy, rather than returning to the mortal realm as he had been struggling to do (and later he realizes that he couldn't have "returned" anyway, as his one exemption from the Clover Effect was already used up when he returned to the world of his birth, Faerie). With this decision Theo finally finds happiness.

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