On a battlefield on a dying world, Red, an agent for the Agency, finds a letter that reads ‘Burn before reading’.
So begins a correspondence with Blue, an agent from the Garden, a rival agency. Both factions are fighting a war within and for time, controlling various strands and pulling threads. Undoing what once had been, creating other stories from nothing. That first letter is all boast and bravado, and so is Red’s response, but as the correspondence continues they share more of themselves with each other. They find ingenious ways to keep their letters hidden from their respective factions, who would see them as traitors, hiding words within flame or flowers. Eventually, they fall in love, but if they are discovered, it will mean death.
This feels almost impossible to describe and review. The writing is lovely (it moves back and forth between descriptions of each character and then letters from them to the other) and the concept is mostly simple – two people writing to each other fall in love to a backdrop of danger – but the time stuff/set up hurts my brain. It isn’t really explained how any of it works, which is fine, I don’t think that’s necessary to enjoy it, but there’s still a lot that just went over my head. Allusions to other works of literature I haven’t read, artwork I haven’t seen etc. I feel like I’m not smart enough for this book.
But, it was an enjoyable, short read, and definitely not like anything I’ve read before.