Audiobook Review: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Title in red on pale blue with darker blue writing rotated 180 degrees beneath
Genre: Sci-Fi
Age Range: Adult
Star Rating: 2 stars
Series: standalone novella


Book cover for THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR; title in black on pale blue with a red and blue bird standing with feet touching

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.

Synopsis taken from Goodreads. Add to your shelves here.


I did a mini review for this book last year, as I first listened to it in the car on the long journey to go on holiday. I feel asleep during the book (being very tired and grieving). So, I listened to it again, and not falling asleep half way through has not made the book any better for me (the Goodreads review has dropped 2 stars!). Plus the voices are very breathy and whispery that they act like a soporific.

I can see why some people like this novella. It’s a very high concept story – which is why I picked it up. Two agents on the opposite sides of a war exchange letters that begin as taunts but them blossoms into a romance. It is the sort of story that promises to contain a lot of chances for double crossing and subterfuge and mistrust.

However, it’s also very much written in a literary fiction style, and that is not a style that gels well with me at all. The prose is so purple as to redefine the definition of the colour altogether. The phrasing makes no sense but is written in such a self-smug way that it feels like it’s suppose to mean anything, repeating ideas again and again in slight variations and taking forever to get to the point. It could have been written in plain English and been a quarter of the length. And when it happens that every phrase feels like it wants to be quotes but yet makes no sense and is just taking up time and space, then it’s a matter of style over substance and I cannot be bothered with that.

The twist is not too bad (and given I had fallen asleep by that point last time, all new to me), but by then I was so frustrated by the style by that point that I was just listening because I had only twenty or so minutes left, and I didn’t like the CD my family had put on. Plus the way the letters had been exchanged were increasingly bizarre – and only one felt anyway likely (MUTATIONS EXIST! You cannot pre-determine how a jug of water will boil to include a letter in it. Etc.)

Oh well, finally got around to listening to one of the many audiobooks that I either slept through or did not like last year, so that’s something.

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