My Favourite Novellas

In my recent post about slumps as part of my Breaking into Books series, I mentioned how life-saving novellas have been for me and wanted to share my love for novellas with today’s post. Novellas are great. They’re my go-to reads when I have a busy schedule or I’m not mentally in a space where I can commit to a full length novel or long series. I appreciate the challenge and skill that it takes for an author to create a full story with a beginning, middle and end, incorporating complex themes, characters, relationship and world building with such a low word count. I love how novella’s often explore abstract ideas in an imaginative way, leaving lots open to interpretation. Basically: I love novellas! Without further ado here are my favourite novellas in no particular order (if you’ve read any of my previous posts some of these will come as no surprise to you!).

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

It’s a classic for a reason. I studied this novella at college and did a presentation about the theme of scientific advancements and their potential repercussions for society and loved every second of it. The concept is simple but the depth of what is explored about human nature, morality, good and evil and scientific technologies are fascinating and always relevant no matter how much time passes.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer

If you read my Best and Worst Reads and Every Book I Rated 5 Stars posts right at the very beginning of this blog, you’ll already know that I adore this book. This is the prime example of the power and beauty that novellas can contain and the ways in which they can explain emotive and complex themes in beautiful, touching and impactful ways.

This is How You Lose the Time War

Time-travelling-enemy-to-lovers with stunning prose and unique world-building. What more could you want? You can read my full review here.

The Outsiders

Again, I’ve mentioned this book multiple times in other posts. It’s one of my favourite books of all time and is another example of how a simple premise and short story can be so meaninful and cut to the core of so many complex issues. Although I don’t have a review posted for it, I’m planning to do a full analysis soon which I’ve very excited about 🙊

I Am Legend

I didn’t have particularly high hopes for this one but it gave me The Walking Dead vibes in the best possible way. It’s a eerie, dark, gritty depiction of what it would be like to live in a post-apocolyptic world and what it takes to survive. This really gets to the heart of what it means to be human and the difference between survival and living.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

What’s not to love about this book? It’s short but an effective and nuanced examination of beauty, corruption, arrogance and vanity. This classic stands the testament of time and is the epitome of “looks aren’t everything”. Oscar Wilde is also a creative genius.

The Test

A lesser known novella but it packs one hell of a punch. This is a twisty, unpredictable sci-fi thriller that touches on themes around immigration and British citizenship. In the context of post-Brexit Britain, this hit me harder than I think it would’ve if I’d read it at a different time.

Carmilla

I will probably beat people over the head with this book for the rest of my life. It’s the female counterpart to and inspiration for Dracula. But ultimately it’s a sapphic vampire tale so the question is… why wouldn’t you want to read it?

Do you like novellas? If so, which are your favourites and why?

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.

This is How You Lose the Time War – Book Review

✨ Spoiler Free ✨

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Genre: SciFi
Publication year: 2019
Audience: 16+
Content warnings: War, violence, animal killings and self-harm.

Synopsis

This is How You Lose the Time War follows Red and Blue, two agents on opposing sides of a time war. When they begin exchanging letters, a profound relationship develops between them which neither could’ve predicted taking them from enemies to lovers.

What I liked

  • Writing style
  • Relationship between Red and Blue
  • The letters
  • Plot
  • Its uniqueness

What I disliked

  • Ambiguous world building
  • Confusing structure (at times)
  • Use of flowery language

Plot and Structure

The plot primarily focused on the developing relationship between Red and Blue but had some elements of the time war scattered throughout. Initially, I was disorientated and struggled to follow the plot because I felt like I’d been dropped into the middle of a story and a universe that I knew nothing about. In terms of world-building, there was very little of what I’d consider the “traditional” world-building that I’m familiar with in other scifi and fantasy novels. Instead, everything was very abstract and ambigious. As the plot developed, it became more focused on the relationship between Red and Blue and less on the time war itself, which I preferred and found easier to follow.

Similar to the world-building the structure was abstract, jumping through time and space often with little explanation. However, the chapters did follow a general format, beginning with a description of where Red or Blue were and ending with a letter. I enjoyed the epistolary format and the letters were the highlight of each chapter for me. Not only did they propel the plot forward immeasurably, but they helped ground me in the world.

Writing Style

This book evoked such a strong reaction from me based on the writing alone. Initially, I really didn’t like it and found it pretentious but it slowly grew on me. It has a lyrical style with flowery language and purple prose. I think this is likely to be the main aspect of the book that could turn readers away, particularly those that don’t like classics since the style is more aligned with what I’d expect from a classic than a contemporary. I do think that the book requires a second reading to fully comprehend and appreciate the complexities of the language and writing style. Nonetheless, El-Mohtar and Gladstone were very intentional with what they wrote. The style fits perfectly within the world they crafted and although I struggled with it at first, I came to love it and the expression of emotion served the romance wonderfully.

“I love you. If you’ve come this far, that’s all I can say. I love you and I love you and I love you, on battlefields, in shadows, in fading ink, on cold ice splashed with the blood of seals. In the rings of trees. In the wreckage of a planet crumbling to space. In bubbling water. In bee stings and dragonfly wings, in stars. In the depths of lonely woods where I wandered in my youth, staring up—and even then you watched me. You slid back through my life, and I have known you since before I knew you.”

Characters and Relationships

Red and Blue are the main characters and their relationship is the focus throughout. This enabled lots of time and attention to be spent developing them as individuals and their relationship. I loved how the letters they exchanged were used to provide insight into their personalities, motivations, desires and fears. Their letters had a unique voice (helped by the fact that El-Mohtar wrote Blue’s letters and Gladstone wrote Red’s letters) and reading the letters anchored me to the characters, their relationship and the wider setting. Since this is a novella, more time could’ve been taken to develop the characters, but I appreciated what we were given considering the page count.

The relationship between Red and Blue might be one of my favourite fictional romances I’ve ever read. Although the enemies to lovers trope usually isn’t my cup of tea, the execution was so original that I couldn’t help but love it. The first letters they exchanged were borne of a vague curiosity and unconcious loneliness, but developed into deep and philosophical conversations about their identities, passions, war, the world and love. Their loneliness and isolation made them both feel detached and isolated, and despite being on opposing sides of a war, ironically the only constant in their life was each other. Their love story was dramatic and emotive; an epic star-crossed, enemies to lovers tale and I loved every second of it (I blame my recent newfound love for Shakespeare for this).

Concluding thoughts

This Is How You Lose the Time War is one of the most divisive books I’ve ever read. I have never changed my opinion on a book so dramatically from beginning to end. Around the 20% mark I was convinced I was going to DNF it, but by the end I was screaming with emotion (literally) and came away loving it. This book is proof that sometimes persevering to the end of a book is worth it. The story, world, writing style, characters and romance were all so unique that I wouldn’t be surprised if one day it’s considered a classic. There’s so much depth and meaning packed into such a short book which provides plenty for readers to dissect, analyse and reflect on. Although the writing style did create some issues for me at the beginning, I came to love it for the way that it immersed me into the abstract world and Red and Blue’s passionate love story. I have never and probably will never read another book like this and I admire what the authors did immensely. They capitalised on familiar tropes but put a different spin on them, creating their own unique story with a lot of heart and soul.

I’d recommend This is How You Lose the Time War if:

You’re looking for an utterly unique Killing Eve/Romeo and Juliet-esque star-crossed lovers tale set in an abstract fantastical, time-travelling universe with intentional and thoughtful prose.

Have you read This is How You Lose the Time War or are you planning to read it? Let me know in the comments!

Stay safe, my lovelies and keep reading.