Alyce is a girl who learns what she wants in life and goes after it. She is a charmingly un-charming heroine with an iron will. I remember reading this as a child and re-read it in the course of a day. I am a midwife's apprentice myself now and I found it all the more charming. (I am, of course, treated better than scraps for meals and sleeping in the dung heap!)
My favorite line is "Babies don't stop their borning because the midwife gives up."