Book Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Name:  This Is How You Lose the Time War
Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Number of Pages: 
209 (ebook)
July 16th 2019 by Saga Press
Genre: Science Fiction

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. 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. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
Except the discovery of their bond would mean death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war.

My Rating:


My Thoughts:

I was in the mood for something completely different when I picked up This Is How You Lose the Time War. I hardly know where to begin with this one. I was totally engrossed in this story of two agents on different sides of a long and complex war through time and space who take up a correspondence that spans years and sees them go from rivals to friends to falling for each other despite all the things that should keep them apart. So romantic, and the writing was lovely, lyrical, and inventive. I need more books like this.

Red and Blue take up a correspondence, and the novel proceeds in epistolary format, which is something I usually enjoy. This style of storytelling seems to flow well, and it works particularly well here as we fly through times, landscapes and space, each changing so quickly that these letters allow you to just go along with it.
Each new letter is a wonderful work of imagination, from the way it is written (in seeds to be consumed, or tea leaves, or water to be boiled), to the way it’s read (one has an instruction to burn before reading, another is read through a sting, another by the consuming of the previously mentioned seeds).

It becomes clear early on that Red and Blue are obviously fascinated by each other even as their respective sides, Red’s Agency and Blue’s Garden, demand that they hunt and destroy each other across all manner of times and landscapes, and the way the whole thing comes together is well done.
I wondered if I might have trouble following something that jumps around so freely through all manner of times and settings, doubling back on itself, going through vast swathes of time into futures unknown, but in the end it all made sense and I was swept up in the story of these two time travellers.

This Is How You Lose The Time War is probably one of the most unique tales I’ve read this year and I really enjoyed it. It was a book that I found myself wanting more of, and once I’d finished I felt tempted to go back and start all over again. At 209 pages it’s definitely one you could read more than once and probably pick up things you may have missed first time around.
And what of Red and Blue? Can they become more than adversaries on opposing sides of an endless conflict. Will their ending be happy, or will their roles on opposing sides keep them apart forever? Finding out was definitely a memorable reading experience.


15 thoughts on “Book Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

    • pagesandtea says:

      I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. I’d thought of reading it before, then decided it sounded a little bit too unique, but it may have been a case of the right book at the right time because it really held my attention.


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