Review: This is how you lose the time war, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This is another review from my pre-blog days, but it’s also one that’s stayed with me. I mean I loved the concept when I first heard about it, but I expected it to me a monster of a book, not a tiny novella. And I wasn’t really convinced with the cover, if I’m being honest.

I watched the Hugo ceremony and was moved by the authors’ acceptance speech though, and I bought it shortly after. And it blew my mind!

The cover even grew on me

The Story

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

Red and Blue, two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions, strike up an unlikely correspondence. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, becomes something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.
The discovery of their bond will mean their death. There’s still a war going on, and someone has to win that war. That’s how wars work. Right?

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I feel like I owe this novella a review, because it it was an Experience I won’t forget soon, but at the same time I’m struggling to find the appropriate words.
There is not one thing about this book I would change or criticise. I couldn’t even say it’s too short, because it’s so masterfully crafted that the size is just what it should be for the story it wants to tell. Where do I even start?
To borrow a metaphor from the book, it’s like a gorgeous and masterfully crafted piece of clockwork. The writing is pure poetry, the characters feel Just Right and even in so few pages you get to know them so well… 
There’s a scene where Blue goes to the Globe and wonders about Romeo and Juliet, and how it will end in this alternate part of the multiverse, and this was an absolutely brilliant reference,  not just because I’m a Shakespeare nerd, but because Time War has something of Romeo and Juliet in it, in its poetry and in its tragedy. And throughout, you can feel that every piece of the story was carefully crafted towards the ending, and everything fits very neatly. But beyond the craftsmanship, I was absolutely moved by this story, by the characters and by the writing. “Brilliant” doesn’t begin to cover it, and it is well worth all the awards it got. 

The Links

Amazon* | Barnes & Noble | Waterstones | Portal Bookshop

*these are affiliate links, I may receive a small commission for purchases made through these links, at no extra cost to you

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