Melina Marchetta's Finnikin of the Rock
I had to reread this so I could read the sequel and really get it! I'd forgotten what a great story this was, and how it was kind of a departure for Marchetta, whose other books are all contemporary YA, whereas this is a straight-up fantasy epic--though still full of the strong characterization and sly humor that marks her other books. And I'd also forgotten how awesome the women in this book are--not just the mysterious Evanjelin, who drives the plot (along with the titular protagonist), but all of the small women characters too. Really strong stuff and I am starting the sequel right now!