This is How You Lose the Time War deserves the hype. The more fantasy I read, the more I crave something that pushes the boundaries, something that really wows me. Several of the books I read did this year by being ‘utterly bonkers’, as I’ve described them, but This is How You Lose the Time War managed it in an entirely different way. Technically, I think this is science-fiction, not fantasy, but it still pushes the boundaries because it is, first and foremost, an epistolary novel, a form that has long ago fallen out of favor.
Most of this novella’s text is made up of letters written between two agents, Red and Blue, who work on different sides battling for supremacy through time and history. They follow the ‘braid’ of time, emerging at important points that seem almost insignificant to us but apparently have great impact on the evolution of the world. They begin to write letters to each other, forming first a friendship and then something deeper and far more dangerous.
I did wish for more glimpses of history, but as the story went on, I was utterly sucked into the evolution of Red and Blue’s complicated relationship, as well as the beauty of the language in the letters they wrote to one another. The worldbuilding was expertly done, enough that I got a sense of the two factions and hints of the world outside the time braid, but without any unnecessary detail.
I listened to this one on audiobook and can highly recommend it in that format. Both narrators, Emily Woo Zeller and Cynthia Farrell, were a delight to listen to. Usually I prefer to read, rather than hear, books that I know will have lush and beautiful prose, but this time I was so enthralled that I could follow quite well even in audio format. I might have missed some things, though, so perhaps a reread (or re-listen) is in order…
2/? of last-minute reviews before the end of CBR12.