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.