Reading Diary: 13 Thoughts I Had While Reading Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone’s This is How You Lose the Time War

I know I’ve said it time and time again… but this book totally ruined me. This is How You Lose the Time War is the sort of book that comes once-in-a-hundred for me. “This book has it all” – the plot, the characters, THE WRITING, a unique and revolutionary take on time-travel romances. This is the sort of book that transforms every time you read it. It’s rare for me to come across such a thing of beauty – and those rare moments, I want to soak in. I am sharing a portion of my reading diary pages for Time War below. Obviously, this will (slightly, I think?) contain some spoilers, and if you don’t mind that read on.

(Otherwise, read my non-spoiler review of This is How You Lose the Time War HERE.)

“And then we’d be at each other’s throats even more.” Oh, petal. You say that like it’s a bad thing.

1. This summarizes the whole dynamic that Blue and Red has. That tension and that amusement that comes with it. It’s almost surprising how it turned into something so beautiful at the end.

What do you want from this, Red? What are you doing here? Tell me something true or tell me nothing at all.

There’s this kind of time travel in letters, isn’t there? You could leave me for five years, you could return never – and I have to write the rest of this not knowing.

2. There is a sense of awe in the way Red and Blue crafts their letters. They make things. The grow it. They talk in codes and metaphors. And it was oh so breathtaking.

That’s what we treasure. That’s us, always: the volcano and the waves.

3. This is when Atlantis is sinking. Imagine seeing that letter, just as when the volcanoes are spewing ash and lava. Ugh, I love these two.

But hunger is a many-splendoured thing; it needn’t be conceived only in limbic terms, in biology. Hunger, Red – to sate a hunger or to stoke it, to feel hunger as a furnace, to trace its edges like teeth – is this a thing you, singly, know? Have you ever had a hunger that whetted itself on what you fed it, sharpened so keen and bright that it might split you open, break a new thing out?

4. This description of hunger: a feeling so intense, you feel that it might break you open. Ugh, the prose in this book is just so good.

And when you write me, you write in furnace and in flame.

It is difficult – it is very difficult, to befriend where you wish to consume, to find those who, when they ask Do I have you still, when then end a letter with Yours, mean it in any substantive way.

5. I know. This is just quote after quote after quote of this because it is just so damn good. The nuance in asking “Do I have you still” to someone who signs their letters with “Yours“. It is just so beautiful.

She sees her and breaks like a wave.

Red wrote too much too fast. Her pen had a heart inside, and the nib was wound in a vein. She stained the page herself. She sometimes forgets what she wrote, save that it was true. And the writing hurt. But butterfly wings break when touched. Red knows her own weaknesses as well as any one – she presses too hard, breathes what she would embrace, tears what she would touch to her teeth.

6. THIS. I can’t begin to spell how this completely describes writing for me. The writing hurts. Because everytime you do it, you tear something from yourself and stains the pages with it.

The triumph feels stale and swift. She used to love such life. Now it only reminds her of who’s not there.

7. This pretty much sums up how I am feeling with every bit of achievement I’ve had after the fateful event of 2013 (a personal thing).

I love writing in aftertaste.”

You’ve whetted me like a stone. I feel almost invincible in our battle’s wake: a kind of Achilles, fleet footed and light of touch. Only in this now non existent place our letters weave do I feel weak. How I love to no armor here.

8. The way this escalates. The little things. That somehow demonstrates how deep and intense the feelings got. Oh, you precious beautiful prose. I want to eat all these letters up.

Sometimes when you write, you say things I stopped myself from saying.

9. This quote right here. My God. My heart breaks.

I am so good at missing things. At making myself not see. I stand at a cliff’s edge, and – hell. I love you, Blue.

10. This is the first time anyone of them actually says “I love you”. That declaration was intense and heavy. It rips my heart. It hurts. And I love it.

I want to meet you in every place I have loved.

P.S. I write to you in stings, Red. But this this is me, the truth of me, as I do so: broken open by the act, in the palm of you hand, dying.

11. My heart. My heart. My heart. Just. Ouch. (For context this is when the letter was delivered through a sting of a bee. Obviously, the bee died after it delivered the “letter”. See what I mean?)

I love you. I love you. I love you. I’ll write in waves. In skies. In my heart. You’ll never see, but you will know. I’ll be all the poets, I’ll kill them all and take each one’s place in turn, and every time love’s written in all the strands it will be to you.”

Love is what we have, against time and death, against all the powers ranged to crush us down. You gave me so much – a history, a future, a calm that lets me write these words though I am breaking. […] Dearest Blue – at the end as at the start, and through all the in-betweens, I love you. – Red

12. My heart is hurting. I almost forgot how gut-wrenching the last few letters in this novella are. My God. It feels like ripping my heart again and exposing it in the open. It stings.

Perhaps survival is its own form of torture.

No death sticks but the one that matters.

I want you to know – I died thinking that if anyone could keep me alive, it would be you. It was, I confess to you here, a smug thought. I died by my own hand, and it was raised by yours.

13. The revelation in these final chapters was sweet and shocking. And now, re-reading everything, it was nice to pick up all the tiny bits and pieces. All those clues! Awesome.

I don’t give a shit who wins this war, Garden or Agency – towards whose shift the arc of the universe bends. But maybe this is how we win, Red. You and me. This is how we win.


Obviously, this is not everything – I have four, completely filled-in pages in my journal because of Time War and I write really, really small. I won’t bore you though because it is just me savoring the breathtaking prose that was in this book. So yeah: Please give this book a chance. Let in some beauty in your life. ❤️

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Auditor by profession and a 'round-the-clock geek 🤓 from the 🇵🇭. I'm a coffee-holic INTJ with an unhealthy obsession with books and stationery. I word-vomit over at Twitter and posts book pics at Instagram: @pagesandcc . I also blog at https://pagesandcoffeecups.com/ .

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