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Publisher's Summary

HUGO AWARD WINNER: BEST NOVELLA
WINNER OF THE NEBULA AND LOCUS AWARDS: BEST NOVELLA

“[An] exquisitely crafted tale...Part epistolary romance, part mind-blowing science fiction adventure, this dazzling story unfolds bit by bit, revealing layers of meaning as it plays with cause and effect, wildly imaginative technologies, and increasingly intricate wordplay...This short novel warrants multiple readings to fully unlock its complexities.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review). 

From award-winning authors Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone comes an enthralling, romantic novel spanning time and space about two time-traveling rivals who fall in love and must change the past to ensure their future. 

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandment finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading. 

Thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, becomes something more. Something epic. Something romantic. Something that could change the past and the future. 

Except the discovery of their bond would mean the death of each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win. That’s how war works, right? 

Cowritten by two beloved and award-winning sci-fi writers, This Is How You Lose the Time War is an epic love story spanning time and space.

©2019 Amal El-Mohtar (P)2019 Simon & Schuster Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: Romance

Critic Reviews

"Emily Woo Zeller and Cynthia Farrell's dual narrations emphasize the divergent personalities of two time-traveling protagonists.... Listen, then listen again to unravel this intricate story, beautifully narrated." (AudioFile Magazine)

Featured Article: The Best Audiobooks Under 5 Hours


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What listeners say about This Is How You Lose the Time War

Average Customer Ratings
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  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

What if Romeo and Juliet were Terminators?

This book is a 4.25 hour answer to that question. not super long by any stretch, and unfortunately the world building makes me wish it did go on for another 12 hours, but ah well, good stories end.

25 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Flowery poetic word salad

Too bad I hate poetry and am allergic to flowers...

So glad this book was short. I was lost in the language for half of it. If you like poetic writing and love letters, you might appreciate this but I did not.

23 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Beautiful writing, but lacking a good story

This is very poetic beautiful writing, but pretentious and treacly at times. It barely does any character or world development. It’s hard to care about the outcome when all the descriptions of action sequences are in convoluted metaphors. It was mildly interesting to listen to, but wouldn’t recommend to anyone looking for an actual story.

20 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Too grandiloquent and abstract for audio

Although the performances of the narrators were stellar, the content of the book itself just doesn’t lend itself to audiobook format. The plot is beautiful but you really have to mine it out and pay close attention. Imagine listening to Shakespere for the first time on audiobook if you had never read it before or even knew what it was about. That is what listening to this book was like.

The prose is really lovely but listeners who are reading for a story will find themselves frustrated. Listeners who read for world-building will also be frustrated because the descriptions of the time travel and futuristic world itself is extremely abstract and never fleshed out as much as I would have liked.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

This kind of writing is not for everyone

I had to restart this book a couple of times to get into it, that is why I gave it 3 stars. I'm glad I didn't quit (unlike some in my book club). The thing I walked away thinking was that we do not write letters like this anymore. We send quick texts, sometimes we might only use emojis. Sadly we don't stop and consider the sunset - too busy trying to get a picture to post on social media. Most relationships even in our families are superficial, many times we are on our phones ignoring those around us, Think about the last time you really connected with someone in the same room. In letters these two time travelers share with each other personal thoughts and ideas. When I picked up the book I was thinking the story may go down the road (since it involves time travel) that it might turn out that this person fell in love with their own future self, that isn't it but I found I did enjoy how this story turned out. Kind of like if Romeo and Juliet were time travelers but even that is too simple of an explanation. I did like the twists, classic time traveling twist but well executed. As for the performance, I personally do not care for breathy narration so I gave 3 stars because it wasn't horrible. I gave a 3 star review because although I ended up enjoying the story, it wasn't exactly what I thought it was. I rarely read reviews before I read the book but if I were to come across this one a midst all the 5 star reviews I may have began reading with different expectations.

20 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

pretty okay

some lovely writing, many obtuse references, little context, confusing sequences. not sorry I listened. recommend borrowing.

16 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting concept and story structure. Unremarkable otherwise

Listened all the way through, but barely. I loved the concept of time traveling factions subtly manufacturing a future that benefits them, but was bored all the same. This is a love story and a predictable one at that. No doubt better than anything I’ll ever write, but not a book I’ll read again.

6 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not What I Expected

If you like flowery, poetic writing - this may be your type of read. If you like vague, convoluted storylines - this may be for you as well. This is NOT Romeo and Juliet. It didn't even truly feel like a time-travelling type of tale (it was, but the storytelling was so loose, its really difficult and unenjoyable). Moments of brilliance because of the poetic writing, but they didn't make the overall book worthwhile. Glad its over. Narrators were okay.

4 people found this helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Horribly written with disturbing S and M theme

This book was more or less incomprehensible. In an effort be artsy, visual and radically different, it was hard to tell exactly what was happening. What was clear was the message that suffering for love was very cool, and I did not like that idea, as square as I may be. A total waste of time.

3 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great story, ok narration

I loved the story format, having a unique voice and style for red and blue was nice. Very beautiful prose. My only issue is with one of the narrators, it sounded like a computer voice from the 90s trying to read a book, very mechanical and almost autotuned too somehow. The other narrator was great.

3 people found this helpful