ARC Review: This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone

Genre : Science Fiction
Date Published : July 16, 2019
Publisher : Saga Press

In honor of Pride month being over but continuing on in our hearts forever and ever and ever, this week I’m reviewing the delightful ARC of This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. Amal Eh-Mohtar is one of my all time favorite short story writers (see: The Truth About Owls ) and I had the pleasure of taking part in Max Gladstone’s class for a Writing the Other workshop this winter. Needless to say, I was over the moon when I heard these two brilliant writers were collaborating on a queer time-travel story! Thanks NetGalley and Saga Press for the opportunity to read this amazing ARC.

This beautiful little novella is set far in the future (and the past, and the present, and the alternate timelines of all three) where two warring civilizations – Garden and The Agency – are trying to gain control over the universal timeline. Garden is an ecological society, controlled by a plant-based organism called Garden that grows the organization’s agents. The Agency, in direct contrast, is a technological society lead by Commandant and comprised of cyborg and robotic agents.

Red, one of The Agency’s most prized agents, first encounters a rival from Garden early in the book. Her name is Blue, and she leaves behind a letter for Red that reads “Burn before reading.” This delightful exchange kickstarts a series of encounters between Red and Blue in which they thwart one another’s missions and leave behind increasingly playful (and serious) letters to each other along the way.

This novella is comprised of short scenes from the POV of both Red and Blue and the letters they exchange with one another throughout their rivalry, friendship, and (eventually) loooooooove. The prose was unbelievably beautiful – each chapter read like a sort of poem! I found myself putting this book down every chapter or so. Each scene felt like eating a really delicious slice of cake – I had to sit in silence afterwards to digest how brilliant it was!

I truly LOVED this book. Red and Blue’s relationship was such a delight to watch unfold – Enemies to Lovers is the trope I will stand behind ’til the day I die, and I’m so happy I got to read it here! Beyond Red and Blue, the universe that El-Mohtar and Gladstone created here is unbelievably delightful – from the Napoleonic Wars to Victorian London to the Mongol Empire to the time of the dinosaurs and beyond, this books takes you on a mind-boggling journey through both time and space. I loved how some scenes, like the one set in the fancy tea shop in Victorian London, felt so familiar and tangible. These scenes contrasted brilliantly with other more unusual settings, like the one set in Garden, which was the most otherworldly and alien setting I think I’ve ever read (it was also one of my favorite scenes from the entire book!).

If you’re as excited about this queer time-traveling ladies as I am, I definitely recommend pre-ordering your copy of the book ASAP! It’s out in North America on July 16 and the UK July 18 (only a few weeks away!!) ~ I can’t wait to fangirl with y’all about Red and Blue it when it comes out!

10 Queer Time Traveling Ladies out of 10


June Bookshelf



  1. Stronger Than A Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan – The title itself was enough to grab my attention, especially since Emory has been on a dragon binge with her books. This one promises not just your every day dragons, but mechanical dragons! Sounds like a cool twist, and I can’t wait to read it!
  2. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson – This book sounds like it has everything – evil sorcerers, magical books that transform into monsters made of out ink and leather, unlikely alliances, and sabotage! It already has great reviews on Goodreads, and I’m so excited to get it!
  3. Wicked Fox by Kat Cho – Out on June 25th, Cho’s debut novel takes on the Korean myth of the gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour men in order to survive. I mean…do I need to say more? (No, but I will!). The protagonist, Miyoung, is one of these gumihos, hunting in secret in modern day Seoul when she decides to spare the life of a human boy – Jihoon – and loses her fox bead (her gumiho soul) in the process.
  4. The Girl in Red by Christina Henry – This book is right up my alley. It’s a post-apocalyptic twist on the classic fairytale of Little Red Riding Hood. Desperate to get to her grandmother to ensure her safety, Red braves the dangerous forest that is packed full of monsters (wolves and humans).
  5. The Outside by Ada Hoffman – Ada Hoffman has been making strides to include more autistic characters in speculative fiction (check out her Autistic Book Party). The Outside features Yasira Shien, an autistic physicist whose work on a space station backfires when it explodes, throwing her into a confusing set of events that includes cyborg servants of God, her long lost mentor, and traveling beyond reality itself.


  1. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone – A novella co-written by two of my favorite authors! Out in July in the US, but I managed to snag an eARC on NetGalley! I started reading last week and it is truly breathtaking!
  2. Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells – Bisexual dragon-stealing ladies! Need I say more? (Apparently I really do like dragons now!!)
  3. New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color ed. by Nisi Shawl – A brilliant anthology featuring work by some of my favorite short story writers (Jaymee Goh, Rebecca Roanhorse, and Steven Barnes to name a few!). And, of course, an intro written by THE Levar Burton!
  4. The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi – A reimagined 1880s Paris feat. a gang of unlikely friends (a hotel owner, a engineer, a historian, a dancer, and a fighter). I can’t wait to start reading!
  5. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke – As I embark on my journey to read every Regency fantasy novel out there, I must confront the fact that I only ever read 1/4 of this book and then watched the TV series instead. Time to dive back into this delightful brick of a book!