Book Review: This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

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

Posted March 31, 2021 by Amber in Reviews / 4 Comments

This is How You Lose the Time War

This is How You Lose the Time War

by Amal El-Mohtar, Max Gladstone

Publisher: Gallery Books on July 16, 2019
Genre: LGBTQIAP+, Romance, Science Fiction
Target Age Group: Adult
Representation: Lesbian, LGBTQIAP+
Content Warnings: Blood, Body Horror, Confinement, Death, Gore, Violence

Rating: ★★★★★

Check out this book on Goodreads or buy the book at

Two time-traveling agents from warring futures, working their way through the past, begin to exchange letters—and fall in love in this thrilling and romantic book from award-winning authors Amal-El Mohtar and Max Gladstone.

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant 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, grows into something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future.

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



This book swallows you up immediately.  The writing is beautiful, the language striking.  Each character unwinds smoothly.and is easily identifiable, even within the limited space of the novella.  I was on the fence about picking this up.  Too much hype about a book can turn me a little sour on it – I’ve been burned before – and I was worried it wasn’t really going tofu my reading tastes.  I was wrong!  I am so glad I decided to read This is How You Lose the Time War!

This novella tells the story of two agents – known as “Red” and “Blue” – who start as rivals and fall in love.  They leave each other notes woven into worlds as they traverse time and space.  Each works for a different side in the war.. Each side thinks they are saving the world and the other person is destroying it.  The world has a similar premise as Just One Damned Thing After Another, but the tone is very different.

The language here, as I said in the introductory paragraph, is absolutely stunning.  Both POVs, but especially Blue’s, evoke so much imagery just by choosing the right two words.  When writing in short form like, language becomes to important.  El-Mohtar and Gladstone are masters of their craft. I also wouldn’t make this story any longer than it is.  Anything longer than novella form would make This is How You Lose the Time War feel heavy and long because of the flowery language.

Will this novella be for everyone?  Absolutely not.  To start, I think some of the science fiction elements were a bit presumptuous, hoping the reader had previous knowledge.  I’ve read a decent amount of science fiction over the years, and time travel didn’t throw me.  Nor did Red’s background.  I think it would throw those less familiar with sci-fi, unless they could ignore it and just focus on the love story.  Much of the story is set in human history, and I have enough exposure of that as well not to feel lost.  I appreciated the snaps in time as Red and Blue twisted and turned the timeline.  I think enjoyment level could be tampered a little if there’s no interest and rudimentary (very rudimentary, however) knowledge in either of these things.

Otherwise, this is a beautifully written story.  It’s incredibly creative.  Even though it was co-written… you can’t tell, which is the best of co-written books.  I experienced this through the audiobook, but it’s one I will be picking up in hardcopy for my collection.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★
Writing: ★★★★★
Pacing: ★★★★
Narrator: ★★★★
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★★

5 Star Rating


Have you read anything by either Amal El-Mohtar or Max Gladstone?  If so, what would you recommend from their work?  I’d love to read more – let me know your favorites in the comments!

Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads | Bloglovin’ | LibraryThing | The StoryGraph | BookTube



Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

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

4 responses to “This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

    • Amber

      Ahhh I’m so glad you enjoyed it so much! I certainly liked it a lot more than I expected. 🙂 Have you read anything else by these authors that you would recommend?

    • Amber

      Oh no, not too hyped I hope! XD I always worry that I’m going to oversell something! It’s great, but won’t be for everyone. The sapphic vibes are sweet and messy and perfect though. <3