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This is how you lose the Time War is not what you would call my usual kind of book. It’s so far out of my comfort zone that it shouldn’t have even been on my radar. But I read Max Gladstone’s debut Three Parts Dead recently and completely fell in love with how unique a world it was. So, when I saw this latest novella collaboration by him and kept reading rave reviews about it, I just wanted to give it a try. I’m also trying to expand my reading into sci-fi, so I thought a shorter book would be the way to go. And wow did I make a great choice.

On first glance, I should hate this book. This is pure 100% purple prose. It’s actually poetry masquerading as prose. I can’t even say I understood all the sentences that were on the page. But even when I didn’t exactly get the literal meaning, I could totally feel the emotion behind it all. This is probably what beautiful writing looks like - I was sitting in a bookstore reading this book and as it went on, I struggled so hard to choke back my tears. It’s sublime and poignant and lyrical and utterly romantic. This is also not the kind of book you can race through - it requires patience and effort and really needs to be savored very slowly.

As you can glean from the title, the main part of the world building is time travel. The two main characters travel through strands of time, make changes that alter the courses of past and future, and leave each other letters through these strands. The epistolary format works perfectly to show us development of the relationship between the two MCs and as a huge fan of love letters in novels, I was totally charmed by them. The only world building we can be sure of is that there are two factions fighting a time war and our MCs are on opposite sides of the conflict - everything else is left vague and while that would usually put me off in any other book, I didn’t mind it here at all. There was just enough for me to feel it, a sprinkling of foreshadowing to keep me going and an ending that comes together so perfectly that it made my heart soar.

To wrap it up, I just want to say that this book is unlike anything I’ve ever read. This is genre bending at its finest - it’s a literary fiction novel with a time travel backdrop featuring a romance for the ages. If you like books that are unique and won’t fit into any boxes, you should definitely give this one a try. This may be a little novella but it demands attention, and I implore you to give it its due and savor it. Don’t try to understand it, just feel it. It just might surprise and capture your heart.