The Shadow Woman vs. Truth and Beauty
Winner: Truth & Beauty
While Truth & Beauty didn't touch me the way it seems to have others, at least it wasn't irritating to read, and The Shadow Woman did that. Often. Second in a row where a Scandinavian book has felt false to me - or at least, badly translated. I've read good Scandinavian books, but this mystery fell flat, and so the biography of a difficult friendship wins in the dying days of the first round.
Falling Free vs. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Winner: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Oh, now this one isn't fair! These are two books I genuinely enjoyed a whole lot and how can I choose? Let's see, Jemisin's wonderful fantasy with a flavour a bit unlike anything I've read before and beautifully mythic ending or Bujold's gripping tale of othering in space. It's not a great reason, but this is the only Jemisin on this year's list, and the third Bujold. Plus, the initial sections of Falling Free made my stomach roiled, which is partly a testament to their strength, but makes it harder to pick up again.
Luka and the Fire of Life vs. The Painted Girls
Winner: Luka and the Fire of Life
Don't get me wrong, The Painted Girls is good historical fiction. But it can't possibly hold a candle to Salman Rushdie, or to this novel in particular, which blended together mythologies new and old in a gloriously and beautifully messy fashion, swept me along for the ride, and left me wrung out and crying at the end. Luka's quest to save his father's life may have had personal reasons for hitting home for me, but I stand by this as a marvellous book no matter your own experiences.
Of Blood and Honey vs. The Man Who Folded Himself
Winner: The Man Who Folded Himself
Oh, come on! Is this the day of difficult rounds? (I know it's only going to get harder from here, but this is the first round! How many days have I had easy choices - or had to pick between two mediocre books?) Let's see - fantasy set during the Troubles in Ireland, or mind- and gender-bending science fiction? It's a tough choice, and I encourage interested parties to check out both. But The Man Who Folded Himself is just too neat to pass up. However, if you like Irish folklore and fantasy at all, Of Blood and Honey is a worthy read too.
Babel-17 and The Girl Who Soared Over Fairyland and Cut The Moon In Two
Seriously. What is with the matchups today? I guess I read a real spate of winners right at the end of the year! I haven't even written my Babel-17 review yet - watch for it later today. And as much as I love Valente's Girl-Who books, Babel-17 knocked my socks off. As a meditation on how language shapes perception alone, I'd have to award this round to Delany.