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

(Last Updated On: July 28, 2019)

This book won’t be for everyone, but once I let go of my need to have everything explained and let the poetic prose wash over me, it certainly was for me.

About the Book

Publisher: Saga Press  |  Release Date: July 16, 2019  |  Pages: 199
Genre: Adult, Science Fiction  |  Format: Physical ARC  |  Source: Publisher via Bookish First

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?

This post uses affiliate links and I may receive a small commission for purchases made through my links at no additional cost to you. Click here for more info.

Goodreads Amazon B&N Book Depository

My Review

This is a beautifully written and poetic experience masquerading as a novella. This won’t be for everyone: even though this is a time travel story, at its core This Is How You Lose the Time War is a poetic story about love.

“Wars are dense with causes and effects, calculations and strange attractors, and all the more so are wars in time.”

This Is How You Lose the Time War is a character-driven story; it is all about Red and Blue and their unlikely correspondences through time and space. There is much that you can glean from these letters about the world of this story, bits that you can piece together into a tableau. But this is not a book you strive to understand or pick apart. Its beauty lies in the purple prose, the story within two characters on opposing sides of war.

“Adventure works in any strand – it calls to those who care more for living than for their lives.”

This is How You Lose the Time War by Max GladstoneThe adventures both Red and Blue take captivated me. There isn’t one reality but multiple; strands and threads of possibilities woven together as opposing sides undo the work. We see Pompeii and Atlantis and countless other places in time, missions to save or doom the people depending on the desired outcomes.

As a person who loves worldbuilding, I will admit I struggled at first. I had no idea what was going on, but I had the feeling this is a book you are just supposed to experience. You won’t understand the logistics of time travel (how they move downstrand and up), how the war started, or why the Garden and Agency are at odds. Those things really aren’t the point. My recommendation is to just relax and let the poetic writing flow over you. This is a story to be experienced, and one I ultimately enjoyed.

✨ Submit your receipt by July 15, 2019 for the pre-order incentive! (US and Canada only, sorry friends.)

ARC provided by the publisher via Bookish First in exchange for my honest review. Quotations are taken from an uncorrected proof and subject to change upon final publication.

spacer_wLet’s go on another adventure together!


  1. Tammy

    July 11, 2019 at 4:18 PM

    I loved your review. I feel like I need to start this over and take a different attitude about the whole thing. I put it aside after about 30-40 pages but I really want to try harder. I feel like I’m missing something!

    1. Kal

      July 12, 2019 at 10:54 AM

      I really did struggle a bit with this one – I asked myself “what is happening?” so often in the first 30 or so pages, and my need to understand the world the book is set in really hampered my enjoyment of the book. Once I let go of my need to understand and just read the works & piece together nuggets from the letters, I enjoyed it a lot more.

      I think you will have to be in the right mindset for it, this isn’t the hard sci-fi you would expect! I hope you do wind up enjoying it when you return to the book, Tammy!

  2. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

    July 11, 2019 at 10:45 PM

    I love romance but reading the first part of this just wasn’t for me! I’m so glad you loved this so much. I must be one of those readers who has to know how everything works to enjoy it… Or maybe I ought to try again and not be so uptight?! Hahaha Great review Kal you’d convince me to read it!

    1. Kal

      July 12, 2019 at 10:57 AM

      It is one of the most unique and unconventional stories I have ever read, and I know this book won’t be for everyone. I also prefer to understand everything, and it was SO HARD to get into the book because I kept wondering WHAT IS HAPPENING!?!?!?!!? It seems like there isn’t a plot at all, but by the end it does become clear, even though I never really knew the big worldbuilding things. If you do decide to return to the book, I definitely recommend just reading it without thinking about it, if that makes sense!?

      1. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer

        July 12, 2019 at 11:38 AM

        YES! Actually I’m really glad I read your experience of the book. I had totally put it behind me but it did pose questions that intrigued me.

  3. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky

    July 11, 2019 at 11:14 PM

    Ahhh I’m so glad you ended up liking it! I definitely think the prose and the blurry worldbuilding will turn some readers off. Like, I personally loved the prose, but *occasionally* it got a little over the top. But I think it fit the story because Red and Blue are supposed to be these cocky superagents who are the BEST at what they do, and it makes for their writing style to be so purple. If that makes sense lol 😀

    1. Kal

      July 12, 2019 at 10:59 AM

      Yea I agree with you 1000%, the blurry worldbuilding almost led me to set the book aside but the prose was so pretty I kept reading. I am glad you enjoyed this book, too!

  4. daxmunro

    July 12, 2019 at 2:02 AM

    Love a read that you can experience. Think I’ll add this to my tbr list. 🙂 Great review. x

    1. Kal

      July 12, 2019 at 11:00 AM

      Thank you so much, and I hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

  5. The Anticipated Releases Book Tag – Siobhan's Novelties

    July 12, 2019 at 9:00 PM

    […] | Misty | Eden, Caitlynn & Jenn | Kaleena | Mogsy | […]

  6. Sarah

    July 13, 2019 at 3:01 AM

    This sounds right up my street! Adding to my TBR now!

    1. Kal

      July 28, 2019 at 4:08 PM

      Awesome, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did, Sarah~!

  7. Isabelle @ BookwyrmBites

    July 14, 2019 at 11:09 AM

    ooooooh I’ve been excited for this one since reading Para’s review, and yours definitely makes me even more impatient for my library hold to come in! it feels like I love time travel more in theory than as a plot (too many variables to think about, it distracts me from the characters and the way the author decides to set it up, which in turn detracts from my overall enjoyment) – so this sounds wonderfully suited to my preferences.

    1. Kal

      July 28, 2019 at 4:19 PM

      Ahhh, I think this will be right up your alley then! I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it, the book is honestly an experience.

  8. TheCaffeinatedReader

    July 14, 2019 at 12:08 PM

    I had no idea what this was about and the cover actually put me off, I know this is weird sounding but like I totally was guilty of the never judge a book by its cover, so knowing what it was about and hearing you talk about it. Another one added to my tbr…… *sob*

    1. Kal

      July 28, 2019 at 4:27 PM

      You know what??? SAME. I almost didn’t even click to read the synopsis when the book was listed on Bookish First because the cover didn’t appeal to me at all, but I am really glad I did. Sorry for your TBR, though.

  9. waytoofantasy

    July 15, 2019 at 5:29 PM

    I really want to read this one, I think it’s going to be one of those books I’ll either be really bored by or it will completely blow me away (hoping for the latter). Great review, Kal!

    1. Kal

      July 28, 2019 at 4:49 PM

      I do think this is a book that will be rather divisive because it is so unique in style, but I hope you are blown away by it when you do pick it up!

  10. Sam || Fictionally Sam

    July 17, 2019 at 10:15 AM

    Okay so confession time, but I honestly thought this was a Historical fiction book that had to do with war and because I dislike HF (can’t say hate because there are a select few that I do like in the genre) I high key waddled away from this book like I was waddling away from an open grenade.

    A time truly.

    BUT THIS REVIEW HAS SHOOK ME. I honestly think this review is as gorgeous as the picture you painted of the book itself. High key feel like this is almost right up my reading alley…? Idk, but it’s waddling onto my TBR for demolition once I get through the ARC haze. I wonder if this is out on audiobook yet, as I have a feeling it would be an incredible listen/read.

    1. Kal

      July 28, 2019 at 5:28 PM

      AHAHAHAAH, that is the best confession ever… and honestly, the cover doesn’t really depict the genre well (but after having read it, it does make sense). I almost didn’t even look at the synopsis of this one, but the words “time war” made me look… because I am a ho for tie travel.

      GIRL THIS WOULD BE AN AMAZING AUDIOBOOK HOLY SHIT. I just looked, and it is! And it’s got two narrators, which means the letters back and forth will each have their own voice.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: