Handbook for Dragon Slayers by Merrie Haskell is a fantasy set in medival Europe.
Matilda may be a princess, but she feels anything but in control of her life. Since she is lame in one foot, her days are spent doing scribe's work related to the running of her small country, which she will rule when she comes of age. Enjoying a few days of freedom while her mother is away on a visit, Tilda and her maidservant Judith travel to a neighboring knight's home to help set his accounts in order, and to visit her friend Parzifal who is a squire there. While there, Tilda is captured by her evil Cousin Ivo, who has designs on her land and plans to step into her place as ruler. Tilda, who dreams of retiring to a quiet convent where she could spend her days in a scriptorium writing her own book, tells Ivo he can have her country, though of course he doesn't believe her. That night, Parz and Judith rescue Tilda, and the three go on the run. Parz and Judith plan to become dragon slayers, and Tilda will finally get to write her own book, a handbook for dragon slayers. There's a little problem, of course: none of them really know anything about dragons or dragon-slaying. And is running away from her responsibilities truly the solution to Tilda's problems?
This story has plenty of action, and a plot that is fairly unpredictable -- I thought I knew where the story was going, and then it would shift and surprise me, which was refreshing (though occasionally disorienting). Tilda and her friends experience a lot of character development as they learn about what it will take to pursue their ambitions. Minor characters are likewise rendered in shades of gray, rarely all good or all bad (though there is one bad guy who is pretty much evil all the way through). Though the setting is medieval, the language is modern, with no thees or thous in sight. I thought this was a fun read with a surprising amount of depth, and I will recommend it to kids and adults who enjoy this sort of fantasy story.
(Reviewed from a copy borrowed through my library system.)