This Is How You Lose the Time War - Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

This Is How You Lose the Time War

By Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

  • Release Date: 2019-07-16
  • Genre: Science Fiction
Score: 4.5
From 110 Ratings

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“[An] exquisitely crafted tale...Part epistolary romance, part mind-blowing science fiction adventure, this dazzling story unfolds bit by bit, revealing layers of meaning as it plays with cause and effect, wildly imaginative technologies, and increasingly intricate wordplay...This short novel warrants multiple readings to fully unlock its complexities.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review).

From award-winning authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone comes an enthralling, romantic novel spanning time and space about two time-traveling rivals who fall in love and must change the past to ensure their future.

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

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, becomes something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

Except the discovery of their bond would mean the death of each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win. That’s how war works, right?

Cowritten by two beloved and award-winning sci-fi writers, This Is How You Lose the Time War is an epic love story spanning time and space.


  • don't set it down

    By CSquirrel
    the worldbuilding is so intricate and so subtle—don't miss a word of this poetic and romantic story, or you might miss the linchpin. a fast read and but by no means light. i wanted to start over from the beginning as soon as i finished it, just to find all the hints and details i might have missed. it will take a lot for another time-travel book to top this, and probably for another romance, too!
  • Absolutely Adored It

    By Lakota Lupin🐺
    I loved this book so much. Everything is so intricately dreamlike, woven together in ways I never thought possible. The story is guided by the world building aspect, and the world itself is so full of twists and turns and obscure yet detailed characteristics, and the story is made so interesting by it. The romance between Red and Blue is sweet and teasing, and some parts of their letters made me laugh out loud. The writing style is one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read, and it really pulls you into the world and into space and time itself until you never want to leave. Some passages were so well-written that I read them two or three times. I can’t recommend it enough.
  • Twisty complex worldbuilding

    By HRJones
    Sometimes I stumble into reading a book that isn’t in my usual target zone at all. I’ve read some short fiction by El-Mohtar that I rather enjoyed, but “epistolary time-travel secret agent romance” isn’t something that would necessarily pique my interest until you insert the word “lesbian” into that phrase. Reading the book set me ruminating on questions of what even is gender in a post-human society, but that’s a different discussion. I love books that make you reconstruct the setting, premises, and backstory from breadcrumbs dropped along the way, and this book goes all in on that technique. There are two sides (at least), with two worldviews (perhaps), and the same goal: to alter branching possible pasts in order to create the future in which they “win” the ability to assert their paradigm over reality. The two are supposedly differentiated by method--perhaps by philosophy--but that’s hard to see clearly in the midst of the casual death and destruction their agents leave in their wake. (In fact, it was sometimes difficult to differentiate the two characters even by voice.) That casual death and destruction is no worse than the ordinary death and destruction of unaltered history (if there is such a thing), but initially I found it impossible to sympathize with the protagonists because of their indifference to the lives they were deliberately meddling with. That remained a theme for me throughout the story: we’re enticed to fall in love with these two opposing agents as they fall in love with each other, but it was hard for me to see them as other than monsters, playing at intellectual games out of boredom and loneliness as they criss-crossed time in their seemingly ageless existence. And yet, I really enjoyed reading this book. I loved the challenge of visualizing the underlying conceptual structure. I loved deciphering the puzzle of how it would all end. The reader is given enough clues to get a sense that the puzzle is there, but not enough realistic detail to be able to work it out in advance--which is a good thing because doing so would have bogged down an otherwise fast-moving story. I loved that sense of just barely holding a slippery tangle of images in my mind long enough to feel that it stuck the landing. It wasn’t quite the book I expected it to be. And it wasn’t as mind-blowing as the social media buzz made it out to be. But it was a fascinating read.
  • Absolutely Magnificent!

    By shadowsong
    A love story between two time-traveling agents that represent very different futures. Told mostly through letters encountered after clashes in various timelines, it manages to weave these threads into a beautiful, lyrical, incandescent whole with a happy ending that truly feels earned. Do not miss this book.
  • Lovely - ashley lovestoread

    By Ashley lovestoread
    This story is not like my usual reads, it is unlike anything I have read before. A whole new way of world than the one I know that made for quite an enjoyable read. The story flowed well and had me guessing at times what could happen next. A slow building romance that is mainly communicated through messages at various points of time. These messages are hidden that only either red or blue can find that have been left for each other even though they are on the opposites sides of the war. One is on the side of technology while the other is on the side of environment. This is a science fiction time travel masterpiece. I would recommend this book to others to read and while this is the first book I have read from this author I hope it will not be the last.