THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone SOARS!
The Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards Winner for best novella, THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR represents some of the very best in innovative speculative fiction.
I read this book in a few days and was enamored with it!
The following is a SPOILER-FREE book review of THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone.
The main characters Red and Blue are agents in a time war described best as traversing amongst myriad threats of history and tangled braids of the future.
Red and Blue are women, if not wholly humanoid, well that is for the reader to decide, and are from a distant future.
They are the best at what they do: marking threads, timelines, for destruction and/or control.
The fallout of their actions directly improves or harms entire cords of histories.
Upon becoming aware of one another’s opposition, Red and Blue begin a taunting, spiritual, revealing, and ultimately romantic correspondence through some extremely well-hidden and well-experienced letters (eating and reveling in Sumac seeds for one, savoring a scintillating pot of tea for another).
The prose from both authors is deeply poetic and philosophical, and is layered in quips, in new tech from the future, in new interpretations of past figures and events.
Red and Blue are deeply insightful people, and they challenge each other to grow even as they get to know one another via the letters.
To create this book, Max Gladstone wrote all of Red and Amal El-Mohtar wrote all of Blue’s chapters.
And so a brilliant use of unique personality naturally illuminates each character.
At first Red and Blue seem like they might snare one another.
Later, Red and Blue seem to have betrayed the time war itself.
The result is that each layer of the book unfolds and is more suspenseful, more delicate, more painful, and more invigorating than the last section.
El-Mohtar and Gladstone’s THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR is one of those pivotal works of sci-fi-fantasy, a classic that needs to be reread again and again to be fully realized.
An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard stands apart, as the first book in The Unseen World series this thrilling journey to the shadowy heart of magic and the magicians who wield such powers in New York City is unparalleled.
The realm of the Unseen World reveals Manhattan’s dark, magical secrets.
But casting magic comes at a price.
There is a balance of power in their world and it is shifting, as the magic itself fades. The protagonist, Sydney, enters the Unseen World, and she is hell-bent on bringing it down.
What Kat Howard has done with An Unkindness of Magicians is extraordinary!
This speculative fiction thriller is so inventive and intriguing.
Howard’s characters are well-rounded, memorable, and all too real in their visceral struggles.
The prose is enveloping in its unique style that is moving, impactful, and poetic, at just the right moments, as in the following passage:
She breathed in. Sydney was, all at once, an entire forest. She was root and leaf, dirt and sky. Green and spring were blood in her veins, air in her lungs. She was, between one heartbeat and the next, all of magic.
The world building soars to brilliant heights off of the foundation of the prose, as a vast realm of magic courses through the veins of the great city, and places like New York’s Central Park house hidden facets of the Unseen World that are wholly new and vivid for readers.
There are so many good lines in the book, but this one wrenched on my heartstrings:
“It was a terrible thing, having hope again.” [Howard, Kat, An Unkindness of Magicians, Gallery/Saga, 2017, page 163]
Mild SPOILER Warning for An Unkindness of Magicians
Every two decades, sometimes a few years less, sometimes more, there is a Turning of Fate’s wheel, and in the Turning the magical houses enter a medieval-like tournament to vie for power, to establish themselves in the Unseen World, or to settle grudges with duels to the death.
The politics, the disinheritances, the murders, the humor, the conversations over drinks, and the plotting and manipulation carried out by a bevy of memorable characters creates an enthralling atmosphere, not unlike the dramatic woven plots in George R.R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones.
The main character, Sydney, is unknown in the magicians’ circles when she arrives in the city.
But she applies for a job, to be a champion of a potential new magical house, and as she lifts cars in the middle of the Manhattan sky with no one – even those non-magical New Yorkers, the mundanes, in their own cars – the wiser, she wins the job.
In her first duel, she wields such immense power that by forcing all of the magicians present to dance, like puppets, everyone takes immediate note.
A target is planted firmly on her back.
Sydney has been let out of the House of Shadows, a hidden magical house that secretly fuels all of the magicians so that they can cast without paying the painful physical toll that comes with the use of magic.
The reality, Sydney, reveals is that infants are sacrificed by each house and those children are raised by Shadows, who cut into their bodies and their very shadows to withdraw magic to pay the toll for the Unseen World.
Warning! You may not be able to put An Unkindness of Magicians down!
Sydney’s contract with Shadows has nearly been completed, and she wants nothing more than to ruin the House of Shadows and to somehow stop the corrupt wielding of magic.
What she has to endure in her first time in the outside world, from newfound love to seeing snow for the first time, to learning who her family is and that they sacrificed her as a baby is deeply moving.
Readers become very invested in Sydney.
It seems like almost anything is possible in this magical world, but as Sydney comes to find out, the cost could be everything she has.
A Sleight Of Shadows, Book #2 in the Unseen World series, by Kat Howard has just come out on April 25, 2023 and is available now!