This is going to be slightly longer, as I pack a few extra books in there. And have to deal with dreaded uneven numbers. By putting three books up against each other at the end.
Madame Claire vs. The Atrocity Archives
Winner: The Atrocity Archives
Madame Claire was charming, but I finally found a Charles Stross book I thoroughly enjoyed! It took this, bureaucracy plus spies plus Cthulhu (odd, given that I don't like horror - but this is definitely more humour than horror), to make me a convert. I can't wait to read other Laundry books. There just wasn't enough to Madame Claire, and it had an ending that irritated me. Atrocity Archives for the win!
The Name of the Wind vs. Kushiel's Dart
Winner: Kushiel's Dart
This is a hard one! Both are epic fantasies, both I really enjoyed! Both tell the childhood and early adult stories of fascinating characters! Sure, one's a travelling performer/magician, and the other's a courtesan/spy, but those differences make it harder to choose, not less! It really pains me to pick Kushiel's Dart over The Name of the Wind. I could have picked either and been unhappy with myself for not choosing the other. But I'd never run across anything like Kushiel's Dart before, and while The Name of the Wind is fantastic, it's mostly doing neat things with fantasy archetypes.
The Fault In Our Stars vs. Truth & Beauty
Winner: The Fault In Our Stars
There are times I'm distinctly tempted to mess with my own system and jigger the contests a little, to make it so I don't have to make a hard choice between two books I liked a lot, and then a hard choice between two books I was only "meh" about. That's what happened here. But when it comes down to it, although I may not be a John Green raving fangirl, I did like The Fault in Our Stars, and the characters in it, and the fact that it wasn't saccharine. In fact, I liked it more than I liked the true life tale of loving someone who has suffered from terrible cancers. Sorry, real life! Fiction wins.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms vs. Luka and the Fire of Life
Winner: Luka and the Fire of Life
Oh, great. Right back to a difficult choice! I know these get more frequent as we get closer to the end, but the spacing here is irritating. But I'm very sorry, N.K. Jemisin. I really loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. But Luka and the Fire of Life touched me deeply, and was gloriously messy and mythological, with themes that will always strike home with me these days. Losing out to Salman Rushdie is not a bad way to get knocked out, I guess.
The Man Who Folded Himself vs. Babel-17
Two classics of science fiction! Two mindbending looks at life and identity, and to some degree, sexuality! Both well worth a read, but if I have to choose, I'm going to go with Delany's fascinating look at language and thought in a time of war over Gerrold's solipsistic narrator with a time machine. Rydra Wong is much more striking of a main character, although Don's egoism is interesting to read.
Assassin's Apprentice vs. Perdido Street Station
Winner: Perdido Street Station
Man, I read a lot of good books in the last month of the year! This is another difficult choice! But in the end, although Assassin's Apprentice was really good, it didn't add much new to a fantasy genre. Perdido Street Station, on the other hand, drips originality like a fine ooze. I loved the city, the descriptions, the prose. The story was almost too creepy and upsetting for me at times, but I stuck it out, and loved it.
Leviathan Wakes vs. Zoo City vs. Moxyland
It seems fitting that the uneven end to this round pits two books by the same author against a different author. And while I enjoyed all three - Leviathan Wakes for its politics in space, Zoo City for an urban fantasy with animals that marked you out as a killer, and Moxyland for its dystopiana, Moxyland is an easy winner. This one blew my brain, and ended so incredibly bleakly I needed to step away from books for a few minutes.
Starting tomorrow: Round Three! We're getting there!