‘This is How You Lose the Time War’ Review: A Masterpiece Set Across the Ages

There are books that can be thrown to the side after reading, never to be thought of again. There are books that stay with you for a few hours, lingering in your thoughts until the next shiny thing comes along. Rarely, there are books that overwhelm you, leaving you trapped in their world, enamored of their characters and the deeply wrought words that remain a marvel long after you read them. This is How You Lose the Time War is that rare book, the kind that inspires you to see the world in a different light, to feel things deeper for a little while. 

A love story, a time travel adventure, an endless war for the future – the book is all of these things and more. These are characters for whom time and daily life are all but meaningless. They’ve lived countless lives, endured endless conflicts, successes, and failures. They’ve torn through the fabric of reality to discover endless possibilities. That experience makes their love story all the more powerful. Red and Blue have felt and seen everything and this love lingered where nothing else had. By weaving that grand setting amidst an extremely personal love story, the author’s have created a bond more powerful than I could have imagined.

The novel’s primary strength lies in the beauty of its prose. There is no stumbling around in the dark as the story tries to find its footing. We’re immediately transported into this strange reality set within endless realities, forced to forget what little we know about life. There’s beauty and terror to be found equally within this concept of time. The tiniest action or change can send ripples that break through multiple realties, changing the course of these futures immeasurably. This isn’t just a science fiction novel set in some distant world – where this future starts is never fully known. Instead, we travel to the gatherers roaming an iced-over world. We watch as a volcano destroys a version of Atlantis. We walk through the streets of any number of cities, some filled with steampunk wonders, others too close to our own time to notice the differences. We stroll through fields and watch the worlds grow. Through all of these times and circumstances, it’s Red and Blue’s love story that creates its own thread, twisting into a conclusion better than I could have imagined.

The epistolary aspect was dreamlike in its originality. What begins as simple letter writing morphs into an experience that transcends mere written words. The letters become a part of Red and Blue, entering their minds, their mouths, their bodies. Their inventiveness continues to grow until they become different beings entirely. It’s beautiful to imagine, taking the concept of a love letter to an entirely new level.

Overall, This is How You Lose the Time War is unlike anything else I’ve read this year. It’s thrilling to read something so profoundly crafted and I thank the authors for their diligence in molding this story into its best possible form.

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

NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.

Photo by Hedi Alija on Unsplash

Author: Jacob A. Olson

Writing about science fiction and fantasy at ReviewsandRobots.com! I write reviews on novels, short stories, television, movies, etc. and throw in a few articles and thoughts as well.

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