Summerbook #5: This is How You Lose the Time War

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

In the war that rages across all the branches and braids of Time, there are two factions: the Agency, which encourages orderly technology, and Garden, which encourages chaotic nature.  Their agents engage in subtle actions that will influence the world in two generations, or two hundred years.  Or they may push a planet to war and destruction.  It doesn't sound fun, but the agents were designed and raised to this job, and they're constantly watched to make sure they do their jobs.

Red works for Agency; Blue, for Garden.  They have never met, but when you've got a perfect nemesis, you get to know them well, and they've been fighting each other for a very long time; neither of them are human.  And then Red receives a letter from Blue.

Their letters to each other are highly secret, and they practically never come written in ink on paper.  Instead they're coded into objects and destroyed after reading, but despite all their precautions, something is stalking them.  And as their wary correspondence blossoms into a romance, they fear that they will never, ever be able to meet, much less escape their fates.

This is, in many ways, a beautifully written story.  The language is often just lovely.  I was pulled along by the story for much of the book, and enjoyed a lot of it.  It's imaginative and beguiling.  That said, I found that the romance fell kind of flat for me.  It didn't feel authentic, I think?  I think I have a hard time believing that you can truly fall in love through a correspondence, without ever having met.  Friendship, absolutely, but a lot of correspondence romances don't seem to survive a real-life meeting.

Anyway, I enjoyed most of it very much and lots of people will love it.  Maybe you'll be one of them!


  1. I wasn't as wild about this as most people, I think! The writing felt too mannered for me, and like you I wasn't pulled in by the romance.


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