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

timewarIn a future at war, Red and Blue are the best agents from their respective sides. Red is from Agency, technological and mechanical. Blue is from Garden, a singular consciousness comprised of the natural and organic. Their job is to alter history through time travel to bend the future to their aims. They travel “strands,” periods of history, chasing each other, stalking each other, and through their rivalry, developing a mutual respect and admiration.

Against strict rules from their commanders, Blue and Red begin corresponding with one another through letters left in the strands. These letters are left in secret places only they will be able to find: tree rings, tea leaves, tiny seeds. The letters gradually become more personal and revealing, ultimately leading to expressing their fears and love for one another.

The story is rife with beautiful imagery, which I reveled in at first, but quickly just left me confused. I loved the landscapes the authors painted, but the flowery prose devolved into such obfuscation that the story was diluted and drowned. It was like reading a fever dream. Picking out the nuanced behaviors of the two characters through the dense, ornate descriptions of their environments became almost impossible. This is not a simple story, nor is it easy to follow. The authors drop the reader into the time war with no backstory, no impetus for the war, and no explanations of the time travel. I had to learn about most of the premise and plot development online while trying to research what was going on in this book after I got lost fairly early on.

5 stars for the imagination of this story, 3 stars for the lack of direction for the reader. I still enjoyed it, however, for its originality and beauty.

Many thanks to Bookish First and Saga Press / Simon & Schuster for this advance copy in exchange for my review.

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