Book Review – This is How You Lose the Time War Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

books, reviews

Rating: 2 out of 5.

This is one of those books that I really wanted to read. I always meant to suggest it for our virtual book club before it disbanded. Every month, we would pick one book under 300 pages and we had a lot of ups and downs. Most of the other members just wanted books about people getting killed. From my experience, crime fiction under 300 pages doesn’t tend to be that great. Unless it’s Agatha Christie but they’d already torn And Then There Were None apart before my eyes. I thought this sci-fi romance book might have something to keep everyone entertained. Especially as I’d pretty much only heard great things about it.

I was excited to start this book. I had such high expectations that I was sure I’d rush through it in a matter of hours. It didn’t entirely turn out like that. I went through different stages with this one. I started out enjoying it, but it quickly became clear that this wasn’t the book I had wanted. It was a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I’d go through periods of enjoying it followed by periods where it just did nothing for me. I’m not saying that it’s not a well-written book because it’s not. The language is beautiful and evocative. It’s skillfully put together and is such an interesting idea. I’m not a big lover of romance books and this was more heavily weighted toward romance than it was sci-fi.

Yes, this is a science-fiction book but very little attention is placed on the wider context. The world-building is quite vague and unfolds very slowly. It’s an interesting universe and I think it’s fantastic but I wanted more of that side of it. The time war of the title is just something that’s going on way off in the distance. We know that Red and Blue are enemy agents in a war that’s taking place over all of time and space. We know something of their respective commanders but we don’t know much. It’s all left to our imagination. Instead, we get to read the increasingly flowery love letters that the pair send each other.

Essentially, this is Romeo and Juliet meets Doctor Who. It’s an enemies-to-loves romance told through their correspondence. Correspondence that cannot be discovered by the wrong people. Instead of letters, they write through tree trunks, seeds and ash. They have all of time to work with and it allows for some very inventive writing methods. This is definitely one of the most inventive and fascinating elements of the story. Waiting to find out where the next letter would be was a thrill. As the pair begin to fall in love, the danger only increases. As the war wages around them, how can the pair ever hope to have a happy ending?

This was a difficult book to rate. On the one hand, I can see that’s it a good book and think the writing is beautiful. On the other, I just didn’t enjoy reading it. I didn’t care about the characters or the world. The overly ornate language was lovely but it got a bit tedious. Especially as I generally just wanted the whole experience to be over. I understand that this is a book about focusing on what’s important in life. Personal matters outweigh anything bigger. It’s just that, as a reader, I wasn’t connected enough to the personal and wanted the bigger elements. My feelings about this book are less about it being bad and more about it being the wrong book for this reader. I can’t say that I fully understand the hype but I’ll get over it.

4 thoughts on “Book Review – This is How You Lose the Time War Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

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