BOOK REVIEW: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by AMAL EL-MOHTAR & MAX GLADSTONE

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Image result for This Is How You Lose the Time War COVER“Words can wound—but they’re bridges, too . . . Though maybe a bridge can also be a wound? To paraphrase a prophet: Letters are structures, not events. Yours give me a place to live inside.”

This is How You Love This Book:

You start reading it and it’s this cat-and-mouse back-and-forth between two women from two opposing sides of a time war, of all things. But what begins as an adversarial, albeit playful, show of bravado unfurls into something unexpected: a connection. It is a thread that is tenuous, unsure of its presence, but present nonetheless. And then the adversarial becomes symbiotic; these two women hold each other up in and through their letters. They are each other’s confessionals, writing and ciphering, deciphering and reading. The thread becomes taut, asserts its presence, makes itself known—that is to say, these two women fall in love.

Zoom out from the moving, almost effortless beauty of this story and you remember: oh yeah, we’ve got a time war on our hands. There are pasts to modify, futures to alter, courses of history to reroute, to nudge this way or that. This is not a metaphor; this is the world of these women. There is a war to win, agents to outsmart, rules to follow, secrets to keep.

The thing about This is How You Lose the Time War is that it does both those things simultaneously and masterfully; it is both the forest and the trees. You are so absorbed in the almost intoxicating intimacy of Blue and Red’s correspondence, the way they increasingly skirt closer to truths about themselves and what they mean to each other. But this is not happening in a vacuum: they live, after all, in a world where they weave and up down the course of time at their will, where what is at stake is the future of their respective sides. This is a world with its own terminology, its own tangled history, its own rules and fine print. But you finish this novel having such a complete sense of both the trees and the forest; the searing closeness of its protagonists, but also the backdrop which has at once enshrined and obstructed this closeness. The more the trees of these characters grow taller, the more the forest sprawls like a carpet to ground them in their world. That is to say, this novel draws the contours of its world even as it colours in those contours with characters of vivid, layered interiorities.

Reader, I loved it.

4.5-


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BOOK REVIEW: NINTH HOUSE by LEIGH BARDUGO

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Image result for NINTH HOUSE

•••some thoughts•••

• by far my biggest issue with this is how plot- and exposition-heavy it was. it was like bardugo did a shitton of research and just wanted to include as much of it in the book as possible. which, like, great, research is good, but i don’t need to hear about every tiny little detail of every single secret society. there’s a fine line between world-building and info-dumping, and ninth house did not walk that line well–or at all, really.

• worse than that though, ninth house‘s plot was convoluted. it felt like at any given moment, there were like 5 plot threads that we had to keep track of, all of which i couldn’t keep track of, let alone care about…

• so, uh, turns out i don’t really give a single shit about secret societies. or mysteries involving secret societies.

• the writing was fine; there was nothing glaringly bad about it, but i expected so much more from leigh bardugo, given what i know she’s capable of (hello, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are masterpieces). sadly though, there wasn’t a single moment in this book that was memorable to me in any way, not a single moment that i found impressionable enough to remember after finishing this book.

• because the plot dominated so much of the book, it felt like the character work just didn’t get the time it needed. alex is definitely the main character here; the plot only moves because she does. but even though so much of the book is about her, i never really felt like i saw her grow. we find out more about her throughout the book, sure, but character knowledge is not character development.

• yeah, this was underwhelming. i may or may not have zoned out multiple times while listening to its audiobook. and i didn’t really care that i did, to be honest. my patience ran out about halfway through this, and after that i just wanted it to be over.

• probably won’t be reading the sequel ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

2.5-


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BOOK REVIEW: THE DOLL FACTORY by ELIZABETH MACNEAL

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Image result for the doll factory by elizabeth macnealMacneal writes well, but her book lacks a certain depth. Her characters’ motives are at once too transparent and too simple. You come to know The Doll Factory‘s characters, but that knowledge comes far too easily. The problem is that Macneal writes with an explicitness that leaves no room for the reader to figure anything out for themselves. Every feeling and motivation is unambiguously spelled out in a way that flattens rather than develops the novel’s characters. The result is characters so easily understandable that they’re rendered insubstantial. And so what you essentially get is the literary equivalent of giving a PhD math student a middle school math curriculum—what’s easy is not necessarily what will be interesting.

More than that though, and possibly even worse, Macneal’s characterization is often forced. I found this to be the case specially in her descriptions of Iris and her twin sister’s strained relationship. The strain in the relationship I didn’t understand very well, and the resolution of that strain I understood even less.

One more thing: I don’t like the way this story wraps up. For 90% of this novel, we’re focused on Iris’s story: her ambitions, her relationships, her emotions. And then suddenly the story turns into some kind of You-like stalker story with a completely different objective. It was jarring, and felt very markedly incongruous with the rest of the novel. Also, I just didn’t care about it lol.

Overall, a mediocre novel. It tries to do a lot, but never quite hits the mark.

three


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