So close! The penultimate round!
Railsea vs. Tooth and Claw
It's funny. I was at the pub this last week, and we were talking about books. (That's not the funny part. I hope.) And a friend and I were raving about Tooth and Claw, and I swear, as soon as we said Victorian literature with dragons, every ear perked up. Everyone wrote it down. It's a great book. You should read it if you haven't.
It's strange. I am not nearly so evangelical about Railsea. I think it'd be a harder sell. I think it's probably not for everyone. But although Tooth and Claw utterly delighted me, when I saw this contest, there was not a single moment of doubt. It's hard to explain why I love Railsea so much, how it enraptured me on every single level. Telling someone to read Moby Dick, but about trains and giant moles? Probably not the crowd-pleaser that Victorian dragons are. But it's certainly a me-pleaser.
Red Seas Under Red Skies vs. How The Light Gets In
Winner: Red Seas Under Red Skies
This is a tough one. Both of these books destroyed me emotionally. I remember where I was sitting and crying as I came to the end of each one. I was in a cafeteria on campus with Scott Lynch's book, at home at the kitchen table with Louise Penny's. Do I put rousing fantasy with a heartbreaking finish over the culmination of a long-term mystery that has made me ache every step of the way and resolves so perfectly and painfully? It's hard. It really is. It's the new characters that Lynch introduces in the second Locke Lamora book that put this over the top. However, the old characters of Penny's carry my affection with them always.
Black Swan Green vs. Memory
Another hard one. Every book at this point is one I liked a lot. However, Memory carries the weight of whole Vorkosigan series with it, most of which I read last year. It was one of the pure delights of my year. Every time I picked one up, I knew I was in for a treat. It is rare to run into that kind of storyteller, who can tell thrilling adventure tales with surprising depth. Lois McMaster Bujold is that kind of storyteller. Actually, David Mitchell is too, and even standing on its own, Black Swan Green was a delight to read. However, Miles takes it. How could he not?