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This Is How You Lose the Time War

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  58,318 ratings  ·  12,076 reviews
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 betwe
Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 16th 2019 by Gallery / Saga Press
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Amal El-Mohtar Well! The book's been optioned for television and Max and I are drafting a pilot of the first episode, so -- hopefully, though in a different medium!

Well! The book's been optioned for television and Max and I are drafting a pilot of the first episode, so -- hopefully, though in a different medium!

Though I can highly recommend Scott Lynch's fanfic to tide you over in the meantime:
Amal El-Mohtar Great question! The red one is a cardinal and the blue one is an Ultramarine Flycatcher, according to Greg Stadnyk who designed the cover. (I kept thi…moreGreat question! The red one is a cardinal and the blue one is an Ultramarine Flycatcher, according to Greg Stadnyk who designed the cover. (I kept thinking it was either a bluebird or tree swallow, but I was incorrect!)(less)

Community Reviews

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  58,318 ratings  ·  12,076 reviews

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chai ♡
“You asked me to tell truths. I have. What do I want? Understanding. Exchange. Victory. A game—hiding and discovery. You’re a swift opponent, Blue. You play long odds. You run the table. If we’re to be at war, we might as well entertain one another.”

This Is How You Lose the Time War is the kind of novel that dips in and out of minds, catches the sharp sun of memory and gleams, leaves its scent on its readers, like perfume transferred between lovers. As soon as you start to put more words in,
Jun 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the most fun I’ve had reading this writing style in a while! It’s such a creative, abstract, lyrical, and well-written love story that not only did I re-listen to each chapter twice on audiobook, but I also ended up borrowing the ebook just so that I could digest the writing via my eyeballs. There were many sensory experiences and beautifully crafted letters. The cat-and-mouse game between the two female protagonists is fun to read and the intimacy that builds up between them just by the ...more
Victoria Schwab
Jul 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy shit this was good.
Aug 18, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
this book has some truly gorgeous words and the yearning between red and blue is on point, but sci fi and my brain are like oil and water & i was ✨confusion✨ for most of the story
Killing Eve but they are time traveling pen pals
shock of shocks: this book i reread 3 months after reading it for the first time is on my 2020 favorites list.

the list in question:


treating myself to some pure bliss & buddy rereading with lily

full review

I do not know how to write five star reviews.

Give me a book I hate and I’ll write a full-on thesis on it. Prime example: Just yesterday I spent one human hour on a seven-page one star rant review. And honestly? Time well spen
2ish stars.

What it comes down to is that I'm simply not enough of a romantic to enjoy this book. The appeal lies squarely in the flowery language written in love poems between two post-human women on opposite sides of a time travel war. I just happen to find love poetry more pretentious and mawkish than amorous or emotive. (Can it even really be considered romantic when one character addresses the other as "Dearest Blue-da-ba-dee?")

The rest of the book (characters, setting, plot) is left intenti

(This was such a thoughtful gift from Melissa!)

this was so perfect i had to reread it again.... and it was even more perfect the second time around. ❤

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Buddy read with Lea! ❤
Joel Rochester
beautiful, amazing, so gorgeously written
Elle (ellexamines)
Congratulations to the 2020 Hugo winner for best novella!

But when I think of you, I want to be alone together. I want to strive against and for. I want to live in contact. I want to be a context for you, and you for me.

I love you, and I love you, and I want to find out what that means together.

This Is How You Lose the Time War is about two women, Red and Blue, on opposite sides of a time war, as they fall in love with each other via love letters. It… was a lot to process. This is mo
may ➹
this book is very confusing because there are lines like “Dearest, deepest Blue— At the end as at the start, and through all the in-betweens, I love you” that make you think, simply, oh......

and then there’s the fact that I had no idea what the hell was going on
Nov 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
lol okay then guess I'll just quit writing forever because I will never produce something this gorgeous. ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, short-story
Almost all my Goodread friends are raving about this. I just didn't like it. I never really understood why the characters fell in love, there's no explanation about what is really going on with the two sides and the writing style was just too... "extra" for me. It's very literary and poetic, it's all words and not much substance. It just wasn't for me. ...more
Re-Read 12/17/19:

I've been thinking about this novella for months since I read it last. It just kept sticking to the roof of my mouth and I loved the flavor sooo much. :)

It's poetry. A tragic romance written as a super-hard-SF spy vs spy. And it's poetry. :)

I LOVE this so much.

Original review:

Damn excellent SF novella. I won't have any problems nominating this for next year's Hugo. It's poetical, yo. Not only poetical, but delightfully unforced in its romance... even as the time war rages betwe
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I want to be a context for you, and you for me.

There is something uniquely affecting when love is painted against the backdrop of the limitlessness of space and time. The effect has been done many times over but nothing can prepare you for the extraordinary beauty in which This is How You Lose the Time War allows you to experience love stretching out and weaving across time and dimensions to examine just how infinite it can possibly be. A spark of emotion that shines through galaxies reduced t
Told from the perspectives of two time-travelers on either side of the battlefield, This is How You Lose the Time War is a haunting, lyrical, abstract love story for the ages.

Red and Blue, rival agents in a dystopian world, are polar opposites. Red works for the Agency, an ultramodern society where hunger has been eradicated by technology. Blue belongs to Garden, an entity that exists in organic matter everywhere. When Red finds a mocking, sardonic letter from Blue in the ashes of a war zone, t
Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd)
This is a book so beautifully written and perfectly conceived that I know any words I write about it will pale in comparison. If you want an ambitious, complex, utterly unique romeo and juliet f/f romance set amidst a centuries long time war (and how could you not want that?) then this is the book for you. I want this entire book tattooed over every inch of my body so that I can remember every single word forever.
"All good stories travel from the outside."

This is a passionate, genre-storming prose poem about temptation and the paradox of opposites that are not: of hunter and prey, tempter and victim - one and the same.

I want to chase you, find you, I want to be eluded and teased and adored; I want to be defeated and victorious - I want you to cut me, sharpen me.


The first temptation is to defy the instruction to "Burn before reading", and the climax hinges on whether or not to succumb to t
Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)
Feb 19, 2020 marked it as did-not-finish  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
DNF @20%: I totally see where everyone is coming from saying that this book is beautifully written, but the plot just wasn't for me (and that's okay!). ...more
Wow! Whether you end up enjoying this book or not, I think you will have to admit it is a very unique and poetic approach to such a dark and gritty sci-fi war drama. In fact, I am not sure that everyone that finds themselves usually enjoying sci-fi will enjoy this one because it is not what you would normally expect.

I really liked this book overall. I cannot say that in the end I understood everything that happened, but I think that is okay in this case. The poetry, the character development, an
A divide - organic or artificial, no matter - sometimes seems made for reaching out across, for sifting through the abyss of difference to find the threads that braid us together.

This is a story we crave - of bridging the gap, of mending the rift, of star-crossed lovers surmounting the insurmountable.
“She climbs upthread and down; she braids and unbraids history’s hair.
Red rarely sleeps, but when she does, she lies still, eyes closed in the dark, and lets herself see lapis, taste iris petals
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Okay. So. Hmm. I loved the love story aspect of it and generally got the gist of what was going on, but there was some big-picture world building that either went completely over my head (likely) or was missing (possible). Being dumped into the middle of a story that has been going on, off the page, for who-knows-how-long can be disorienting. And maybe it was meant to be. Or maybe I'm just not smart enough for this book. Or maybe it was a mis-step on the part of the authors. Whatever the reason ...more
Mary ~Ravager of Tomes~
Actual Rating: 1.5 Stars

Well I’m incredibly sad that I didn’t enjoy this more given all the rave reviews & what sounded like a super intriguing premise.

Agents of two opposing factions, time traveling through what is described as “braids” of alternate realities & dimensions, falling in love against their better judgement. Also they’re queer. Literally no part of this premise sounds bad to me.

Unfortunately it’s the execution of this idea that sends this book into a nosedive for me.

Normally I don’t
This book made me feel really dumb. I don't think it was the book's fault. The combination of high science fiction with poetic literary fiction just didn't click together in my brain. There was never a point in this book where I knew what was going on. I just finished it and have no idea what happened in it. ...more
Lucy Tonks
”Hope may be a dream. But she will fight to make it real.”

I'm not sure what I've just read. This has to be one of the most beautiful books I have read in a very long time. There were so many elements added to this story and I just loved how uniquely it was told. I've never ever read something like this.

This Is How You Lose The Time War is an abstract and lyrical story told from the perspectives of two time-travelers that find themselves on different sides of a War. Red and Blue are enemies
May 23, 2020 marked it as don-t-count  ·  review of another edition
Another one for the Not-A-Review files:

Seems doubtful.

One, I've always been iffy about the epistolary format, which is pretty odd, considering the volumes of letters I've written over my life. (Literally. One friend and I filled a two-inch three-ring binder at college). I mean, maybe that's why; it's too personal to be appropriate to what I feel a story needs. In a lot of letters, there's the weight of history behind them. This set-up, perhaps, could transcend the form, but still, ultimately, t
Despite struggling for the first 50 pages, I eventually got into the flow of this book and I absolutely fell in love.
Every single sentence of every letter made me want to burst into tears. The writing of this was the most poetic, lyrical writing I have EVER read.
Despite barely knowing blue and red (and only knowing them for 200 pages), they become people I can think of say “I know them”.
To say this book is amazing is an understatement and I’m so glad I pushed through the beginning.
C.G. Drews
I honestly did not understand this a bit, but the pure aching sapphic love letters (going from sharp and teasing to absolute yearning and love wrenched wanting) were things of excellence 😭👌🏻
Meagan ✊🏼 Blacklivesmatter ✊🏼Blacktranslivesmatter
Fucking brilliant! I loved every second! I admit there were some things I struggled with, but nothing a reread can't fix 😊. ...more
3.5 stars

I actually finished this book 2 days ago but had no idea what I wanted to rate it.

This book is a sapphic love story between two rival spies on different sides of a war fought through time. Chapters consist of short periods of time war plot with letter correspondence between the two happening between chapters. It’s beautifully written, particularly the letters and the ending. But I did find the ending to be a bit predictable and the overall plot, while interesting at times, wasn’t real
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“I love you. I love you. I love you. I'll write it in waves. In skies. In my heart. You'll never see, but you will know. I'll be all the poets, I'll kill them all and take each one's place in turn, and every time love's written in all the strands it will be to you.” 260 likes
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