[REVIEW] This Is How You Lose The Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

ID: A black tablet displaying the cover of This Is How You Lose The Time War(sky blue background with red and blue cardinal birds reflecting each other surrounded by title text). The tablet is held in front of a leafy green bush by a black woman's hand.

(Buy it from Bookshop)

This may be the unlikeliest romance novel I have ever read.

Red and Blue are super soldiers in the time war, traveling across the 4th dimension bending history with violence and other influences. Somehow, they begin a mocking correspondence, taunting each other while busy sinking Atlantis and riding with Genghis Khan to manipulate various timestreams. The taunts turn to banter; the banter to confessions; then, like all good romances, after girl-meets-girl there’s contrived misunderstandings, heartfelt declarations and sacrifice of near-Shakespearean scope. However, when all is said and done they are dimension-traveling human bioweapons, so the shape that these time-honored tropes form around Red and Blue are often unfamiliar, surprising and very entertaining.

It took a while for this to gel for me, but I’m glad I stuck with it. Time War is creative, well-crafted and–dare I say it?–kind of cute. Red and Blue’s sappy hyperbolic letters to each other drew quite a few unexpected smiles from me. Also, I can’t remember the last time I read something in English that made me look words up while reading–but this book stretched my vocabulary delightfully. This is clearly a book by, for and about the nerdiest sort of bookworm and I dig it.

I liked this a lot but I didn’t love it entirely. I want to, but the start is so slow I almost quit reading. Also, after working hard to keep readers on our toes through the intertwining plots, the ending is rather predictable. I can’t give this book my whole heart, but I might write it a letter or two, see where things go.

4.5 stars and a drawerful of paper and ink to This Is How You Lose The Time War.

(Happy Spring, fellow readers! This is the usual reminder that this blog has affiliate relationships with sites like Bookshop, and if you click and purchase anything from a link you find here, a commission may be paid. So go on. Click. You know you want to. Peace!)

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