After blowing off numerous recommendations to read this book, I finally decided I’d give it a try. I honestly have no idea why I put it off give that it has so many things I love in it – science fiction with time travel, f/f representation, and a good old enemies-to-lovers romance. It honestly might have been the cover. Without the context from the story, the cover is absolutely boring. From the cover alone, you’d have no idea that this was sci-fi or about time travel (Umm, yes? Hello? The National Audobon Society called and they want their cover back). BUT having read the book? MY HEART IS WEAK. Needless to say, I regret that it took this much prodding to get me to stop putting this book off. It has completely and thoroughly won me over and obliterated my heart.
This Is How You Lose the Time War
Authors: Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
Publication Date: July 16th, 2019
Publisher: Saga Press
Genre: Science Fiction
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 book absolutely and completely blew me away. I went into reading knowing to expect a f/f enemies-to-lovers read and I got that but so much more. It is no exaggeration to say that this book had me flying with feelings (at one point in time I had my arms out and was sweeping around through my lab on an absolute high of feelings as I listened). I’m struggling to organize my thoughts into clear and concise language in a way that can thoroughly convey just how I feel. Largely my brain feels like a large amount of shrieking and keyboard smashing.
Overall, the writing in this was gorgeous. It was violent but soft, poetic, and mysterious. I honestly did not know that something could be so softly and delicately romantic while being such a strong science fiction read. Neither part felt heavy-handed. The majority of the story was told through (love) letters between the two main characters, Red and Blue. As a result, things were sometimes vague but given the format, it made sense.
I can get how the time jumping and the at times vagueness of it all could be confusing but in a world where anything could be made into a letter – from seeds to tea, it all just felt right. Once you stopped questioning what everything meant and gave up demanding an exact reason for everything and learned to go with the flow of the book, it was an extraordinary ride.
You are taken both through the familiar and the unfamiliar as you follow the progression of the time war and even the familiar became a bit unfamiliar as one learns how the time agents interact. From the assassination of Caesar to the fall of Atlantis, there seems to be little left untouched in the war. And it all plays out beautifully as almost a sort of soundtrack to the relationship between Red and Blue.
I feel anything I say will pale in comparison to the actual writing when it comes down to that relationship but suffice to say that it is beautiful and incredibly moving. At times I felt I was floating on a cloud and others I could feel my heart being squeezed inside by chest. It was impossible not to fall for them entirely.
Everything about this book was so satisfying. Once it ended I had no choice but to go back to the beginning and read it again. There was really nothing else to do.
I see myself returning to this story many times and cannot wait to give it a special place on my shelf as it has certainly earned itself a special place in my heart.
I’d recommend this to those in search of their next great queer genre read, to those who’d love to be wrapped up in a poetic science fiction read, and to those wanting to be swept away in a love that transcends the limits of time and space.