Book Review | This Is How You Lose the Time War

Well, after my recent Rick Riordan kick, it’s time for something completely different!

This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone tells the story of Red and Blue, two women fighting on opposite sides of a war that spans and transcends all of—you guessed it—time. Red is from the futuristic, high-tech Agency, whereas Blue is from the more natural Garden. They begin passing letters to one another in secret, and despite their different backgrounds, they find themselves unexpectedly falling in love, though neither is sure their feelings for each other will be allowed to survive this war.

This is a rather strange and confusing read, though written with a lovely poetic style. Adjusting to the narrative voice was difficult for me, and despite the strong imagery, sometimes the plot is not easily accessible. On the other hand, the imagery is strong, the personalities of the two main characters really shine through, and it’s a beautiful, exciting story. The time travel element of this is secondary to Red and Blue’s relationship, which some might not enjoy, but I felt it made this unique and distinct from other time travel stories. About half of the book comes in the form of letters between the two women; if you like epistolary novels, give this a try (if you don’t, maybe still try this anyway, if you like science-fiction or romance).

I listened to the audio version of this, and though I loved the two narrators, I think I need to read this again, using a physical copy, to get the full impact and fully understand the story. That isn’t a criticism of the book itself, merely me recognizing my tendency to be much more of a visual learner than anything else. Some audiobooks work really well for me; unfortunately, this wasn’t one of them.

In the end, though, This Is How You Lose the Time War is a fascinating book that combines the excitement of a time travel adventure and a romantic story full of passion and strife into a poetic literary experience. I had a hard time with this one, but I’m glad I read it nevertheless.

Overall rating: 8.2/10

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