This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar/Max Gladstone (Book Review)

Publisher: Saga Press
Page Count
: 209

I went into this book pretty naive. I thought that if I could grasp movies like Inception (not that it thematically has anything to do with this particular book, I was more thinking in terms of complexity), I’d surely be able to understand This Is How You Lose the Time War. Oh, how foolish a thought of mine!

From the get go, you get plunged into a world or multiple complex interweaving time strings you are not going to be able to comprehend. There is no explanation of this universe. There is no easing you into the matter of Red and Blue (the main characters who tell the stories, partly through letters but also just as you follow their path) and their unique rivalry turned deep connection. You just have to accept prompts such as:

Burn before reading.
Bubble to read.
Every seed is a letter.

When you start out, none of this makes sense. How do you burn a letter and THEN read it? But you soon come to accept that there are words on the page you know, that are familiar, but that don’t make sense in this constellation or context to you. It’s a process that took some time for me to come to terms with and just read like I understood what was going on. But then, Red and Blue aren’t “normal” people/humans. You cannot expect them to operate the way you would and to be confined to our meager options. They are agents of the Garden and the Agency respectively and that means something entirely new and complex again.

But as you go on, dive deeper, it doesn’t have to all seem logical to you. Maybe there is no universal logic that will ever be able to be applied to this novella and that is okay too. It works in its own unique way. I can see a lot of people struggling with it though and it is something to be aware of when you pick up This Is How You Lose the Time War.

What “saved” this book is the sapphic longing that oozed off the pages. It was beautiful and gave this confusing mess a purpose. There is really no other way to put it.

“I love you. I love you. I love you. I’ll write it in waves. In skies. In my heart. You’ll never see, but you will know. I’ll be all the poets, I’ll kill them all and take each one’s place in turn, and every time love’s written in all the strands it will be to you.”

Fazit: 3/5 stars! It makes more sense towards the end, but it’s still utterly confusing in its lyrical beauty.

What is the last read that had you all confused? How important is worldbuilding to you when the focus of the story lies on emotions? Let’s talk!

6 thoughts on “This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar/Max Gladstone (Book Review)

  1. I read the title and thought, “Is this a Doctor Who tie-in novel?” Apparently I was wrong, lol.
    And I think the last read that left me really confused was Inferno by Dan Brown. I mean, the switcheroo in the story made no sense to me! Really brought down my enjoyment of the story. Other than that, maybe a couple of manga series that got really hard to follow for one reason or another. That’s all I can think of.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Based on our previous convos about this book I feel like I’d have to concentrate really hard to grasp the concept of this world. I don’t like the idea of diving headfirst into a new world, but I do love the intimacy that comes from a relationship of longing. As always, amazing review.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much, Lois!
      I, at some point, just gave up on trying to understand certain parts. I was like “okay, words words words aaaaah yes, the next letter continues”. It’s not badly written, but it’s typical fancy literature that is not meant to create a logical world, but more a sense of feeling I suppose.


  3. Those are the best books, though, the immersive ones, that make you learn and fall in love with a whole new language. This one grabbed my eye on the shelf like, as someone said above, I thought it was a Doctor Who reference. Haven’t read it yet, but your review intrigues me more and more!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not sure I would call it immersive and a book that made me fall in love with a new language. I just gave up on trying to comprehend anything 😅 I figured the time travel part wasn’t what it was about anyway. If possible,I’d recommend reading a couple pages before buying the book.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.