One of my all-time favorite books, this book has everything except explicit sex and romance. Magic, shape-shifting, elves, dwarves, gnomes, gods, heroes, and villains are all included as well as geography, history, human wars, and epic battles of good and evil.
Paksenarrion, Paks for short, runs away from home to join a mercenary company while dreaming of leading battles with a glowing sword and mighty charger. She works hard to learn all she can and grows into the warrior she wants to be but never quite good enough to keep everyone safe as she would have it. Then just as she believes she has her dream she loses what she considers to be her very self. Then through the help of friends she had made along the way and the strength she has gained through travail she gains more than she ever thought to have.
To me this book is an affirmation of the personal growth potential that we all have.