Okay, yes, I read a lot of books this year. We're coming to the end of the first round in a couple of days, I promise. To be precise, right after the New Year, when I'm sure I've read all the books I'm going to in 2013.
Madame Claire vs. The Power of Habit
Winner: Madame Claire
While far from a classic, Madame Claire was charming. The eponymous character, her family, the story, were all enjoyable to read, but marred by a ending I didn't particularly like. That still lifts it about The Power of Habit, which had a few good ideas, but meandered far from their shores, and ended up feeling more like a rah-rah for corporate capitalism than I was truly comfortable with.
The Alchemy of Stone vs. The Atrocity Archives
Winner: The Atrocity Archives
I liked was Sedia was trying to do in The Alchemy of Stone, and her prose was truly lovely at times, but it never quite gelled quite as much as the other entry in this particular match. I've struggled with Charles Stross' work for a while, never liking it quite as much as I wanted to. With this book, however, I finally found one I could enjoy without reservation. Cross Cthulhu with governmental bureaucracy, and this is exactly the book you'd want to come crawling out of that unholy union.
The Name of the Wind vs. The Way of Shadows
Winner: The Name of the Wind
Fantasy books with similarly-cadenced titles? Well, yes, but when it comes down to a comparison, Brent Weeks just can't hold a candle to Patrick Rothfuss. The Way of Shadows was fine, but lacked the courage to keep up the darkness it tried to establish. On the other hand, Rothfuss' book was a meander through an early life in the best possible use of that term, with a framing device that gave Kvothe's youthful struggles poignancy. I can't wait to read more.
Wicked vs. Kushiel's Dart
Winner: Kushiel's Dart
Wicked was a reread, and I was surprised how disappointed in it I was. It felt lacking in every way. And I felt no such disappointment in Kushiel's Dart, which created a world rife with politics and sexuality, and explored one character's movements through it in ever-intriguing ways. Not for the prudish, Kushiel's Dart was some of the most finely realized fantasy I've read this year.
The Fault in Our Stars vs. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Winner: The Fault in Our Stars
The Fault in Our Stars may not have moved me to tears, but The 100-Year-Old Man moved me to active boredom, if such an animal exists. This Scandinavian import had more ambition than it had tight plotting or intriguing characters. And while teenagers struggling with cancer didn't hit my emotional buttons, it was nevertheless refreshingly free of saccharine.