Crown Duel by Sherwood Smith
A Covenant and a Code
In Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel, it’s been hundreds of years since the mysterious Hill Folk went to war with the people of Remalna to defend their groves of colortrees, whose rich hues of blue and red and gold made them valuable for trade. The Hill Folk fought back with their all of their magical powers and easily defeated their foes. At last a truce was reached. The Remalnan settlers would cut no more wood, and in exchange the Hill Folk would give magical Fire Sticks to last them the winter.
The people of Remalna follow a Code of War which forbids any weapon that is not used in the hand or thrown by the hand. In this way killing at a distance is not possible, and any person wishing to take part in war put himself at considerable personal risk, which made wars in Remalna few and far between for centuries.
A Most Unlikely Countess
Growing up, Mel ran wild with the village children, never learning anything of the finer points of ladyhood. Lovely manners and embroidery did not interest Melaria, who preferred sword practice and riding cross-country through their land of Tlanth. If the castle's furnishings were reduced to rickety furniture and threadbare curtains, this only mattered to Mel because everyone around her also suffered under the cruel taxes imposed by King Galdran. When word came that the king planned to break the Covenant to line his pockets all the more, Mel was enraged. Surely, now there would be rebellion!
A Death Bed Promise
On a bitter cold day, her twin brother Branaric came to Mel. His usual smile had fled from his handsome face.
"Melaria, it's time to go see Papa."
The Count of Tlanth lay dying in a freezing tower room, windows thrown open so he could better hear the windharps of the Hill People mourning him.
"Remember, my children--although your mother chose to adopt into my family, she was a Calahanras--the last of the very finest royal house ever to rule Remalna. If she had wanted, she could have raised her banner, and half the kingdom would have risen, gladly, in her name. You two are half Calahanras. You have her wit, and her brains. You can take Remalna, and you will be better rulers than any Merindar ever was.
"Promise me," he said, struggling up on one elbow. His breath wheezed in and out, and his skin was blotchy with the effort, but his voice was strong. "Promise me! You will fight Galdran, protect Tlanth, and the Covenant."
Brother and sister agreed, but Branaric is a scholar, not a warrior. As for Melaria, her daring is great, but is she too young to lead a band of rebels to claim her crown?
Crown Duel is the beginning of a well-loved fantasy series wherein a young warrior queen must claim and keep her crown.