Another longer one, bringing Round Three to a close!
All Quiet on the Western Front vs. The Sword-Edged Blonde
Winner: All Quiet on the Western Front
I may be choosing based on a feeling of duty rather than sheer enjoyment, but as much as I enjoyed the fantasy noir of The Sword-Edged Blonde, it's merely fun. The same cannot be said for All Quiet on the Western Front, but in this battle, the experience of war and the common humanity of soldiers has to win out over a king named Phil.
Hounded vs. Pandemonium
The snark goes down today. I liked Hounded, the millennium-old druid and his faithful dog. And fights with witches, werewolves, and the Tuatha de Danaan. But it was mostly an entertaining diversion. Pandemonium is one of the most assured debuts I've read in a long time, and this story of demon possession in a world very like our own, and the eventual answers, absolutely captivated me. Both these authors were pleasant discoveries, but Pandemonium was the book I became passionate about.
Joyland vs. Turn of the Screw
Look, I feel like I've done my duty pick - and I stand by that choice. But it makes me feel better about picking Stephen King over Henry James. I liked Turn of the Screw, but between two tales of atmospheric, windswept, remote locales, Joyland was simply more fun. And finally gave me a Stephen King experience. So there's that.
Leviathan vs. The Violent Bear It Away
Winner: The Violent Bear It Away
And the pendulum swings back the other way. I feel weird keeping The Violent Bear It Away around so long, which is probably why I keep mentioning its upsettingly homophobic interlude which adds nothing to the story. But the rest of the book haunts me still, and its take on faith, rationality, and the way to live keeps me from turfing it from the competition. Flying living zeppelins can't quite take this one out, razor-pooping bats or not.
Foundation and Empire vs. I Capture The Castle
Winner: Foundation and Empire
I am, dear friends, a nerd at heart. When I enjoyed two books about the same amount, and one is science fiction and the other is straight fiction, my lodestone is always the science fiction. I Capture the Castle is charming, but Foundation and Empire is a classic. Not perfect, not exquisitely written, but a classic.
The Atrocity Archives vs. Kushiel's Dart
Winner: Kushiel's Dart
I liked the Lovecraftian bureaucracy of the laundry. A lot. But it doesn't really compare to Kushiel's Dart, which gave me a fantasy world unlike any I'd seen before. (And actually caused me to question whether or not it was actually fantasy.) I also really enjoyed the centre spot sexuality played in this one, with being exploitative or crass. It's not for the prudish, but it is for me.
The Fault In Our Stars vs. Luka and the Fire of Life
Winner: Luka and the Fire of Life
Two books about, loosely, death. One is perfectly fine young adult, the other a gloriously messy mishmash of mythology and video games, stories and legends, irreverence and pain. So, yeah, I'm picking the latter. Rushdie has created something quite unique here, and I loved it for so many reasons. The John Green I merely enjoyed. Also, of the two, the Rushdie book was the one that made me cry.
Babel-17 vs. Perdido Street Station vs. Moxyland
Winner: Perdido Street Station
An extremely tough three-way battle at the end of Round Three! These were all books that I thoroughly enjoyed at the end of the year, from the beauty of language in Babel-17 to the grimy streets of New Crobuzon in Perdido Street Station to the cyberpunk South African dystopia of Moxyland. Picking between them is terribly hard, but in the end, the swooning I did over China Mieville's descriptive passages carries the day.