I think I found a recommendation for this book in a list of great fantasy/sci fi books for women. I can't really remember. But I found it somewhere, and the Seattle Public Library did its thing, and a few weeks later it turned up on my bookshelf.
So I gave it a chance. It's a young adult fantasy novel. And you know I'm all about the genre. Didn't I just have an entire week full of books by Diana Wynne Jones? Believe me, I appreciate decent genre writing.
Alanna is a young girl who wants to be a knight instead of a lady, so she switches places with her twin brother. He goes off to be trained as a wizard, and she gets sent to the castle to train with lots of yummy noble sprigs.
It's a very female-friendly storyline, so I can see why it would have made it's way onto the list I found. It was originally published in the eighties when, perhaps, the standards for young adult fantasy were a little lower? The whole Harry Potter thing hadn't happened yet? And somebody read it when they were twelve and thought it was the neatest thing ever, so when they were writing a list of recommendations for fantasy novels for young women, on it went.
At least, that's the explanation I've come up with. Because honestly, it's not very good. At all. The plot is perfectly straightforward - not a twist, turn, or surprise to be seen. The writing is amateurish-to-winceworthy. The characters are uninspiring, including the obnoxiously plucky Alanna, who I wanted to slap into next week. Or should I call her, like Tamora Pierce does about a dozen times, 'pert'. Every single usage of this word snapped my out of the story (such as it was) because let me tell you, when you backsass adorably in a group of ten to 14 year old boys, they don't call you 'pert'. They call you gay, and then they beat you up.
Much better examples of the 'female warrior' subgenre are The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley or The Deeds of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon.