Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
As a little kid in the late nineties, my main exposure to fantasy was through watching my brother play video games. Thusly, Warcraft II and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were enormous parts of my childhood. While the former is something I’m fond of revisiting in a fog of nostalgia, it’s the latter that utterly captured my imagination. There’s a lot of reasons for that, from being left-handed to a surprisingly diverse array of female characters for a mainstream video game from the nineties, but the biggest is Princess Zelda herself. Forced into hiding as a child after the murder of her father, she pins her hopes on a wild gambit. She spends seven years becoming a warrior before that gambit can pay off, watching her kingdom crumble around her. When that gambit miraculously works, she bends time to her will to try and give both the hero and herself the childhoods they were denied. And then, without ever knowing if that worked or not (if she killed him or not), she has to rebuild a kingdom from scratch.