Max Gladstone and Amal El-Mohtar’s This is How You Lose the Time War is an epistolary novella, made up letters between two time-travelling agents, each of whom is manipulating the past to make their own future more likely.

So the thing about this that might not be immediately apparent is, it’s a low-key character-driven story. The time war stuff is basically just background whose main point is to shape the characters; the heart of the story is the two agents and their relationship to each other, which evolves and changes throughout the sending and reading of those letters. This is going to strike some people as frustrating—you see these glimpses of this epic storyline and plot, but it’s all just skipped past lightly—but El-Mohtar and Gladstone are pushing each other to heights of their writerly craft in their letters, so if you can take it for what it is, you’ll get an original and brilliantly-written relationship story out of this novella.

I suspect it’s a shoo-in when award season comes around. Highly recommended.


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