This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

36516585._sx318_Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?



As a blogger, you occasionally come across a book where, upon completion, you think to yourself: I have no idea how to review this. This is How You Lose the Time War is one of those books. How do I review a book who’s plot I barely managed to follow, who’s prose both captivated and confused me, and who’s world-building confused the everloving fuck out of me? Well, I suppose I’ll start with the basics.

This is How You Lose the Time War is a love story. A romance between two agents on opposing sides of a war that spans the length of time. The classic to enemies-to-lovers trope, if you will. They meet in one lifespan, fight each other in many others, and occasionally pass love letters through the formation of DNA in a handful of berries, the arrangement of rings in a felled tree stump, and… wait what? Yeah, that’s about where I got lost.

But let’s set the plot and time-travel shenanigans aside. Those aren’t the reasons I gush about this book. No, the reason I gush is due to the sheer beauty of the letters (and eventually love letters) Red and Blue pass each other. I have never read love letters so beautifully and intricately crafted that I wanted to just pause after each one to let myself just sit and take in what I’d read. Because truly, the prose in those letters is simply gorgeous. And while each letter reads unique to the life Red and Blue are living at the time, they still manage to capture Red’s brashness and Blue’s subtleties.

Similarly, I also adored is the slow-burn surrender as these two characters find themselves further and further entangled with each other. Admittedly, both characters are spending most of their time trying to out-do each other’s plans for a particular timeline, with no actual direct contact. However, there’s this slow development as the two get to know each other better and when the first ‘I love you’ is written, it became the most beautiful thing I read.

Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. This is How You Lose the Time War is a beautifully crafted novel with gorgeous prose and fascinating characters. Definitely one of my favorite reads in 2019.

/r/Fantasy 2019-2020 Bingo Squares:

  • SFF Novella
  • Title with 4+ Words (Hard Mode)
  • Published in 2019

Publication Date: 16 July 2019
Publisher: Saga Press
Format: Paperback, ARC
Pages: 202
Word Count: ~37,000
ISBN: 1529405238

4 thoughts on “This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

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