by Sherwood Smith (2008, Norilana Books, more middle grade, I'd say, than young adult).
Rhis is the third child of the king and queen of a small, but very wealthy, mountain country. But even though she is left pretty much to her own devices, she is still a Princess, and thus eligible to receive an invitation to the coming of age party of the Crown Prince of Vesarja, a much more important and central kingdom. Rhis is not thrilled at the prospect of being surrounded by an inundation of princesses, and unlike some of the bevy of royal maidens, she doesn't have her sights set on snaring the heart of the Crown Prince. That is, until she sees him...yet strangely, it is a young scribe whose company she finds herself enjoying much more.
Then Iardith, the most perfect of princesses, and not in a good way, is abducted. Rhis and her new friends decide to escape the politics and intrigue of the royal birthday bash and head off to the rescue themselves. And in so doing, they find adventure, some danger, a mysterious and horribly powerful enchanted gem stone, and they also learn the small but important fact that princesses are rather valuable themselves, and will be missed, and pursued, when they set off into the hills...
Maybe the plot sounds a bit frivolous, but this is a truly fun book about girls from very different backgrounds coming together to form friendships, learning to take the responsibilities of their lives seriously, and learning a bit about luv as well. I enjoyed it lots, in a light read way. I would, for instance, enthusiastically recommend it to the 12 year old girl who loves Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale.
A big reason why I like this book is that I think I could be friends with Rhis, the heroine--bookish, musical, unconcerned with being a Princess. Here's a description from the beginning of the book of her room, which is high in its own stone tower, where she is left in peace:
Rhis loved the lookout. It was cozy, and had a nice fireplace (with a magical firestick in it that burned evenly all winter long), a comfortable cushioned chair, a desk, a small case containing all her favorite books, and a tiranthe- the twenty-four-stringed instrument that Elda insisted only lowly minstrels played. Here Rhis could practice and not disturb, or disgust, anyone. Here she could sit and read and dream and watch the ever-changing weather and seasons over the tiny mountain kingdom. She could also write wonderful ballads.I got a copy of this book from the publishers, as it was nominated for the Cybils Awards in Science Fiction/Fantasy. I try hard to give most of my Cybils books to the public library, but some I know I'll want to re-read, when I need a pleasant escape from reality. I'm keeping this one for that reason.
Incidentally, I think whoever picked the cover art missed the mark--it would have been so easy to get a bit of diversity going here, what with portraying princesses of many lands. But they all look European, and not that particularly princess-like.