This is some of the best heroine-centered fantasy. Don't miss this one or its prequel, The Hero and The Crown. Robin McKinley is a reigning queen in the fantasy world.
The Blue Sword
This is one of my comfort books. I've been reading it every few years since I was a teen and now I'm 49 years old and still love it. McKinley has a rhythm to her words, a fairy tale quality laced with reality. Her characters live in my mind, her descriptions of the world make me want to visit, and her themes of courage and perseverance inspire me. Most of all, I want to ride a Damarian horse!