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I read a young adult novel around the turn of the century. This story features a young female protagonist that is very naturally gifted in magic. She is attending a wizarding school to learn mastery and control over her gifts.

A lot of her school revolves around magic dueling. The participants are taught to extend their inner aura like a second magical skin, possibly referred to as creating a shield, or mana shield. The user can increase the strength of the shield by focusing harder on it, but doing so means you have less ability to be offensive. The amount of energy needed to create a shield was half the energy a foe would need to focus at you to break it.

Ex: Mage A and B are equally matched. Mage A focuses half his power into a shield. Mage B would then need to focus 100% of his power to break A’s shield.

Another aspect I remember is that when dueling, a school master would extend a personal shield on to one of the combatants as a sort of secondary shield that goes underneath the combatants. When one mage broke the others mages personal shield, the school masters shield protects the losers life from harm, and the breaker of the shield is declared the winner.

I distinctly remember one match in which the protagonist is having a duel with another strong student. She creates a wind storm around herself that picks up the sand from the arena floor and makes her impossible to see and thus makes it hard for her opponent to focus on her shield to break it. She then lashes out at her opponent with incredibly powerful strikes with the final strike being so hard it shatters the opponents shield and then breaks the school masters shield as well and stops just shy of killing her dueling partner.

Any assistance on this one? I think my daughter would love to read it.

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    Oh god, turn of the century now refers to the 90s and 2000s – user16696 Feb 26 '15 at 20:02
  • @cde Which is about as good as my memory in this case. The year 2000 +/- 8 years. I am swaying towards after 2000 based on the belief that I was in America when I read this. – Firebat Feb 26 '15 at 20:09
  • It's still a good lead, and sounds interesting. Any idea on the cover art? – user16696 Feb 26 '15 at 20:18
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    This reminds me of The Black Magician series by Trudi Canavan, but I don't remember enough details to make it an answer. There was definitely a scene involving dueling magic students, and magical power was used both to shield oneself and attack. – LAK Feb 26 '15 at 22:56
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As @LAK stated, this is exactly what happens in The Black Magician trilogy by Trudi Canavan. To be more specific, this is a nice description of the second book in the series – The Novice – in which the female protagonist Sonea is actually learning magic at the Magicians' Guild.

The distinct dueling scene described in the question takes place at the end of the novel and it's very close to what actually happens in the book:

Sonea can't take the bullying anymore and challenges the worst of the bullies – Regin – to a formal duel in the Arena where she battles him with skill and ultimately defeats him with a display of raw power.

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    This is the book I had in mind. Should have figured it was actually a trilogy, fantasy books rarely seem to come solo. Thanks! – Firebat Mar 1 '15 at 18:15
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    Yeah, stand-alone novels are a rarity nowadays. Maybe things are going to change now that novellas appear to be all the rage, at least according to Tor. Looks like Tor has quite a few in the pipeline and other publishers are bound to follow suit. – JC2k8 Mar 1 '15 at 21:45

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