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Book Review: This is How You Lose the Time War

Author Webpage: Amal El-Mohtar, Max Goldstone

Stars: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Reminds Me Of: James Bond, Saga, Doctor Who: "The Girl in the Fireplace" , Romeo and Juliet

Warnings: War, Love, Death

Triggers: Not really much to worry about except a broken heart

Publisher Synopsis:

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.


This is such a unique and different book experience than anything I've reviewed or read before. Written from the perspective of letters and notes we get these snapshots in time between two rival factions. Blue and Red are their titles. Which in military strategy is indicative of the blue (good) and the red (bad) sides, but that's not what's really happening here. We don't actually know which side is good or bad. What we do learn though is Red's side is all machine and order, while Blue's world is all about nature and a connection to the world. Not much is discussed in terms of why they are fighting but you can sort of get the gist between those two ideals.

Moving on, cause that's not really the point. Ultimately its a story about love blossoming through words. We start out with a bit of taunting and ribbing like this is two football teams egging each other on before a game. They teach each other things and start to relate on a much more personal level. They each have unique styles on writing and the ways in which its delivered. This is a time war after all so they are waiting and hiding their letters in secret throughout not just space but time. This part reminded me of Doctor Who's escapades with River Song. And just like in that series the letters become more and more romantic which makes it utterly sad because you remember they are fighting each other's side this whole time.

The other fascinating part about this book is how it was written. Two authors writing a novel isn't that crazy of a concept but Red's letters were written entirely by Gladstone, and Blue's by El-Mohtar and they didn't know what the other would write before hand meaning the emotions poured into each letter were genuine. This makes the writing so much more raw and beautiful.

I gave this book 4 starts ultimately because the writing is just hauntingly romantic. You wouldn't know that these two authors are renowned science fiction writers with their proses on love. You genuinely feel enraptured by these two time and space crossed lovers that you totally forget this whole concept of a war going on. SPOILER ALERT In the end when they are in fact separated the devastation of that realization is truly heartbreaking.

Drink Pairing: Three Dots and a Dash

What better drink to express the connection between words, sounds, and feelings than a drink about Morse Code. Created during World War II by Donn Beach, the name is Morse code for “Victory.” The garnish cleverly represents the Morse code. The three cherries are the “dots,” and the “dash” was, traditionally, at Don the Beachcomber’s, a rectangular chunk of pineapple.


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