Book number 5 The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale.
This is a book that I read a few years ago and enjoyed very much so I was unsure if it would still be as good. It was better than I remember!
Girls from a small mining village in the mountains are sent to be educated ready for the prince to pick from their group to be the new princess. Sounds mad but makes sense when you read it, not only do they learn to read but are told about life outside their community and are taught diplomacy and economics.
Because the mines are so loud they have their own special way of communicating and this skill comes to their aid when bandits attack.
Very exciting and not at all ‘girly’.
Give it a try.
Mrs. H.