Winner: The Princess Bride
I didn't love either of these books, but while The Princess Bride only struck me as not as quite as good as the movie, Death Comes to Pemberley was truly atrocious. It committed the cardinal sin of making Lizzie Bennett boring, while shoving the one character James did write with some life, Lydia, firmly to the sidelines, leaving us with quite a lot of boredom, really. So it's an easy choice. I may not have loved the text version of Goldman's book, I did mostly enjoy it.
Winner: Adulthood Rites
My inner (and outer, because, let's face it, the nerd goes all the way through) science fiction nerd helps me decide this one. Adulthood Rites was my favourite of the three books in this trilogy, although I enjoyed, was challenged and unnerved by all three. It's a hell of a series, chock full of difficult questions about ethics and choice. While I enjoyed The Sea, over the last year, it has faded so much in my memory that it's very faint. When one book remains vivid while the other gets washed out, it makes the choice easy.
Winner: Bad Feminist
There is something strangely appropriate about these two books coming up against each other. In one corner, we have a series that I quite enjoy except for the main character's chauvinism. In the other, a series of feminist essays about, among other things, how it is impossible to be always an ideologically pure feminist, liking only things that conform to our political viewpoints. We all like things that are problematic. Purity is impossible. While there were some essays that missed for me, there were many that hit, and therefore, not because I feel bad about mostly enjoying the Harry Dresden books, but because Roxane Gay is awfully fun to read, this round goes to a Bad Feminist. Instead of a chauvinist.
Winner: Heart of Iron
This is one of those battles that's hard because neither book really struck me. I wanted more from both of them - stronger characters or prose or something. So this goes to Ekaterina Sedia because at least what she was showing me felt a little bit new - not perhaps as new as I might have wanted, but newer than Feist workmanlike fantasy, where nothing at all is innovative. I get the Feist is an early entry,but it doesn't have that spark that makes, say, Tolkien, a lasting name. If Sedia isn't quite at masterwork, at least it's interesting, and we get so little Russian-based fantasy.
Winner: Haroun and the Sea of Stories
I liked Dracula, really I did. It's not a matter of that at all. It's just that while I enjoyed it, it never purely delighted me the way Haroun and the Sea of Stories did. Novels of vampires, however epistolatory and train-schedule dependent, can't possibly match the sheer pleasure of Salman Rushdie's prose, his messy fantasies of language and silence, They are gloriously, beautifully tangled, and that's just the way I like my stories.