Review: This is How You Lose the Time War

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

Genres: Science Fiction, Novella
Maturity Level: 4
View on Goodreads
Rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

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.


At this point, This is How You Lose the Time War has won every major science fiction award there is to win. Every reviewer, bookseller, blogger, and book personality has talked about why this book is so good. I’m not sure there’s anything I can contribute to this conversation, other than to say I cosign ALL OF THAT.

To me what makes this book so special is how intimate the writing is. This book is the opposite of a space opera in every way. The science isn’t explored at ALL, the world building is barely there (though clearly the authors understand more than they wrote), and while the scope of the plot is MASSIVE, we just don’t see most of it. Instead, we get these intensely personal character snapshots and letters. It’s so raw, emotional, and intimate. I loved that.

I became so invested in the characters and their relationship. This book takes you on an emotional roller coaster, though with some sense of humor along the way. I feel as though Red and Blue are people I really know. And that’s all a testament to the writing.

The wring is just SO. DANG. GOOD! It’s so lyrical, almost like poetry. I’m not the right person to talk about writing, I never have the vocabulary to explain it. But the writing in this book was enchanting.

Everything you have heard about this book is true. It was so different from what I was expecting, but so much BETTER than what I was expecting. A must-read for Science Fiction readers.

7 thoughts on “Review: This is How You Lose the Time War

  1. ‘the world building is barely there (though clearly the authors understand more than they wrote)’

    That’s interesting! I know Max Gladstone from some of his Craft Sequence books and those are VERY into unusual worldbuilding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think maybe “unusual world building” is maybe a better description than mine, but I think it’s the letter-writing format that keeps the reader from building a firm understanding of what they world is and how it works. I mean, the characters clearly have no need to explain it to one another…

      Liked by 1 person

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