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Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve sat down to write a review. I fell out of love with them about a year ago, when I found myself stressing out about writing my thoughts in the perfect, rounded way.
Recently, I decided it’s time I try my hand at review-writing again, but this time, in a way that feels more comfortable to me, just putting my thoughts onto the page.
And what better book to start out with than one I finished a few days ago: This is How you Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohar.
SYNOPSIS: “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.”
Where to start?
This book was already incredibly hyped for me– I’d seen it across Bookstagram and Booktube and had read majority good reviews. But I was still dubious; some of the reviews had mentioned that the writing was flowery and the plot was difficult to follow.
In truth, I don’t often read sci-fi because it scares me a bit, so I definitely put this book off for a few months out of fear that it would be difficult to follow. But the exciting synopsis and promise of a slightly different romance finally drew me in.
Let me start by saying I absolutely adored this book. It’s only around 200 pages long (I wished it was longer) and I read it in a blur of just a few hours.
The romance was gorgeous, I loved the lilting writing style (this is a book packed with quotable lines) and the characters almost completely captured my heart (I would have liked to have spent a little more time with them before the book wrapped up).
“Books are letters in bottles, cast into the waves of time, from one person trying to save the world to another.”– this is how you lose the time war
The characters were part of what really made this book for me. Blue and Red are agents on opposing sides of a time war, communicating through letters and the occasional glimpse they catch of each other.
Before reading, I’d wondered if the fact they have very little face to face contact would make the romance feel less real to me, but the letters were crafted so beautifully that it still felt incredibly believable.
The pacing felt a little off at points, and occasionally I felt that the romance was rushed into (the tone of the letters ramped up pretty quickly).
Despite this, the exploration of their characters growing together and apart through letters hooked me completely, and I really did read the whole book in one sitting.
“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.”– this is how you lose the time war
The book is written by two authors, each writing as one of the characters. I read in an interview that often each author didn’t know what the other had written in their character’s letter until they saw it, so the reactions of the characters are truly genuine. This realness and emotional reaction is definitely something that completely hooked me.
One thing I did notice is that I sometimes had a little trouble telling apart the two characters. Of course, it was easy to look back and see which was writing each letter, but it wasn’t always immediately obvious. The two styles of writing felt quite similar, despite being different authors, and the characters themselves weren’t the easiest to distinguish in terms of having individual personalities.
I wont lie, the plot was difficult to understand. The basic premise of two agents on opposite sides of a war is easy enough but the reasoning behind certain actions wasn’t always clear to me, and some of the action blurred together.
I don’t read sci-fi very often (and almost certainly wouldn’t have read this if it wasn’t for the romance) and I did have trouble understanding the intricacies of what was actually happening.
I’ll level with you, I was reading this for the romance- that was done beautifully- so it didn’t matter to me too much that I didn’t completely understand the plot. If you’re reading this for the sci-fi aspect, prepare to have your brain fried a little bit trying to work out exactly what’s going on.
“I want to meet you in every place I have loved.”– this is how you lose the time war
I quickly realized when starting that most of the reviews I’d read were true. The writing is flowery– the authors take a lot of words to make metaphors of things that could be said a lot more easily.
If this is something you dislike, it might be a genuine reason not to read this. But lucky for me, I actually really enjoy flowery (or at least heavily detailed) prose, especially when its more of an obvious choice.
To me, the writing didn’t feel deliberately quotable in an annoying way; instead, I enjoyed the beautiful way it flowed from one letter to another, even if it was a little bit full of declarations of love and grand metaphors.
Did you enjoy this return to review writing? Let me know any other books you’d like me to review in the comments below or by DMing me on Instagram. And tell me what you thought of this book if you’ve read it! Did you agree with my review?