HomeAll postsThis is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

This is How You Lose The Time War: a red bird looks as if a corresponding blue bird is its reflectionA review by Nalini Haynes

Red is a super-human woman wandering the highways and byways of space, time and quantum universes. Her job is tweaking timeline strands, braiding them together, to ensure her Agency wins the Time War.

Blue is a super-human woman, an elite if slightly estranged-from-her-collective warrior in the Time War. Her job is tweaking strands, braiding them together, to defeat the Agency and to ensure her Garden wins the Time War.

Romeo and Juliet

Blue challenges Red to correspond with her. At first they are rivals, then friends, then, long before either declares any emotional involvement, the correspondence evolves into a romance worthy of Romeo and Juliet.

Like that first story where the Montagues and Capulets were feuding, Red and Blue must hide their romance from their teams. They fear for their lives if caught.

Late in Time War, the narrative references Romeo and Juliet. This play exists in all of history’s strands although sometimes it’s a tragedy, sometimes a comedy. Which applies to Red and Blue?

Time War has more in common with Gladiatrix than Anne Gracie’s Regency romances and yet romance is the dominant theme.

Broad brushstrokes or surreal narrative?

This Is How You Lose The Time War is at times so surreal it’s out of my comfort zone. I prefer stories of the concrete, scenes I can visualise, plants that evoke scent. Instead the narrative is told in broad brushstrokes, vague hyperbole and metaphor. At other times the narrative seems grounded, the lack of concrete descriptors due to the super-human nature of the characters.

At times the prose is poetic.

The narrative closes with a question. The outcome is concrete and yet there is a question, or several questions to be answered.

I admit to being trilogy-fatigued so stand alone novels are more appealing. These days I prefer a conclusion to stories in one novel… and an ending that invites imagination, invites the reader to create possibilities, one that retains my imagination. A good closing scene without closing the story keeps me engaged with possibilities. What do I want? How do I want the story to end? Time War kept me wondering, which of the two obvious possible outcomes did I want? Or did the characters, for me, sidestep the obvious?

This Is How You Lose The Time War is not for everyone due to its experimental style and ephemeral narrative. However, it is an intellectually rewarding read with prose of a high standard. And it’s a must-read for time travel tragics like moi.

Book details

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
ISBN13: 9781534431003
Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books, Simon & Schuster
Format: ebook, pp. 208
Category: timeslip fiction, romance, speculative fiction

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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