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

Strange and beautiful. 5 stars.

This is how you lose the time war by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone book cover

I got a copy from my local library. Please use your library as much as you can!

The blurb:

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?

My take:

This book contains so many elements which appeal to me: it’s essentially an epistolary novel while also a sci-fi tale of time travel multidimensional malarkey and an improbable romance struggling to survive against the odds.

The result of this genre mash-up is beautiful, poetic, epic… I run out of adjectives! And this short but perfectly formed book is a particularly staggering achievement given that it’s a collaboration between two authors, one that is completely seemless.

Having said all that, I suspect this will be a Marmite book. If you aren’t a fan of time travel stories or sci-fi in general, you might struggle to understand what the heck is going on at several points in the narrative. There is no explanatory preamble, the story ploughs straight on from the first sentence and doesn’t slow down to clarify anything. The reader is expected to keep up, which is something I think they’ll find easier if they have previously read/watched other time travel/dimension hopping stories. In fact, we never even really find out exactly what the two protagonists are – although it’s clear they aren’t human, or at least aren’t merely human. If you would find this level of ambiguity and weirdness frustrating or downright enraging, I would say this isn’t a book for you.

Although I thought it was brilliant!

Overall: a story which is as beautiful and romantic as it is strange and brutal. If you think there’s any chance you will enjoy it, you must give it a try.

Claire Huston / Art and Soul

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

    • It is brilliant. But I could imagine that if you haven’t a lot of experience with time travel stories all the terminology/references that go with it, it could take a lot longer to decipher and understand what the heck is going on!

      That said, I’d say it’s worth the effort as it’s just lovely. Ultimately, all the sci-fi stuff is window dressing for a love story which spans all of time and space, defying all the odds to survive. It’s terrific! 🙂


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