It strikes me that both these books are about what connects us as humans, across time and space, to those we've known intimately and those we've never met, and how these webs come into being without us even necessarily recognizing them, simply by being a part of the world. There's a sense of loss and community in both, and this is a more difficult choice than I expected it to be. While acknowledging that both these books are marvellous, I'm going to have to pick...
Winner: A Tale for the Time Being
In another piece of synchronicity, in this match-up we have two books that are very much about clashing value systems and the exercise of power in a world where that power has recently shifted, and may shift again at a moment's knowledge. Where magic can help and destroy, and the choice to use it or hide it is not a simple or an easy one. I knew immediately which one I was going to pick, though.
Winner: The Shadowed Sun
If I'm continuing to look for connections between the books in the competitions this round, this is a little harder, jumping from pure fantasy to a novel that is firmly rooted in life that feels so real you could almost inhale the scents. They are both, however, about women who are a little out of place in the spaces they find themselves, in the houses of men of influence and importance, and try to figure out for themselves what that means. And all apologies to Naomi Novik, but Lila wins this in a heartbeat of dappled sunshine.
It feels weird this year that so few of those going from the quarterfinals into the semifinals are genre fiction, my favourite stomping grounds. But what can I say? I read a ton of amazingly good mainstream fiction by women this year. And as much as I loved The Steles of the Sky and the whole trilogy that it capped, Everything I Never Told You was a delicate thunderbolt of love and distance.
Winner: Everything I Never Told You