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on 12 February 2002
This book is about love, honour and betrayal. About how the paladin of the title finds out that far from being loved by the people he is in fact feared and despised. How all that he believed to be true is a lie and all that he held dear was false.
With his world destroyed and his beliefs shaken the paladin retires to live in obscurity on a distant mountainside with only the bitterness at his betrayal for comfort.
In to this solitude comes a young woman who wants the paladin to teach her his skills so that she might avenge her family who have been killed in a rebellion against the emperors evil chamberlain. Despite his efforts to drive her away the paladin finds himself teaching the girl.
First respect and then love, which neither party is willing to recognise, grows between them and when the time comes for the girl to leave the paladin finds himself drawn back into the world. Unwittingly the paladin becomes the focus of a new rebellion and forces flock to his banner.
As with all Cherryh books the action largely takes a back seat to the characters and the real interest is drawn from the interaction between them. This isn't a book for people who want blow by blow accounts of battles or a sword fight on every page, it is a book for people who want to get to know the characters and get to care for them. That is Cherryh's strong point, she writes characters so well that you do care for them, even when they may at first seem to have very little to recommend them to you.
I give this book five stars, I have re-read it several times and can recommend it to anyone who wants a good, character led read.
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on 16 October 2005
The Paladin could be described as attributing to the individual a most unfashionable concept; that of personal responsibility and the spirit of honour that must imbue all the choices an individual makes. Here we have cause and effect in its purest form.
What is so refreshing about the Paladin is that the reader is drawn into a pre-industrial society that is, for once, not mediaeval England. Strong characters are the central draw, male and female both, and with the obsessional traits that allow the reader to abandon the reality of 21st Century morality and cynicism.
A great read, a re-read, again and again.
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The author's prolific output includes a large number of hard science fiction tales, a few magic or fantasy novels, and a few with high-tech artifacts in low tech societies where technology comes over as magic.

To the best of my knowledge "The Paladin" is her only novel which has no science fiction or fantasy elements: it is also very possibly C. J. Cherryh's best book.

"The Paladin" is set in a pre-industrial society, the location of which is not precisely identified but where the names sound oriental and the description sounds reminiscent of medieval China or Japan.

On a remote mountain just outside the borders of a troubled empire, a former Master Swordsman hides away on a hill, calling himself Shoka and tending his garden. Once he was Master Saukendar who served the previous Emperor, but the present monarch and Regent betrayed him, and he had to flee; legend has it that he killed twenty of the Imperial Guard in self defence on his way to the border.

For many years Shoka has retreated from the world, but then a youth with a scarred face comes to see him, begging the master swordsman for teaching in how to use a sword, with the intention of employing that knowledge to seek vengeance.

Shoka is about to send the suppliant packing when something catches his eye ...

This book is dominated by strong, believable, and very memorable characters: the interaction between them is a major part of the story.

In spite of the fact that it's a different genre, if you enjoyed the "Morgaine" quartet, you will love "The Paladin."
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on 14 February 2006
This book is something of an oddity, written as if it were a fantasy, but it could have just as easily have been placed into the 'historical' novel camp, with just some minor changes in the described locale and time, as there are no magical happenings, no flights of fancy, nothing that could not have happened in the real world.
The plot line is quite simple. A young girl comes to beg training in sword fighting from a legendary master who has 'retired' to a mountain hermitage so she can use the acquired skills to exact revenge on a lord who has desecrated her homeland and family. The master, former advisor to the old Emperor, is actually in exile, forbidden on pain of death from ever returning to court, and has settled into a simple life of meditation and taking care of his old war-horse, and not wishing to get involved with anyone, or to return to intrigues of the court. But the girl finally manages to force the master to accept her as an apprentice, and her training begins.
The interaction between these two characters during this portion of the work is excellent, as each displays traits of stubbornness that make for continuous conflict between the two. And the conflict extends beyond the physical training, into the realm of why one should or shouldn't take action against perceived wrongs, what purpose an individual's life has, the value of honesty both to self and others. This is well done, and I felt that I really got to know and admire these two individuals, as each has traits that are worth emulating.
But the second half of this novel, when the two take to the road to actually accomplish the girl's original objective, is not nearly as good, dropping down to a standard swash-buckling adventure novel, with action a-plenty (and somewhat confusing as the reader is hit with many minor characters and place names that are difficult to keep track of), but almost none of the fine philosophy and character interaction of the first portion. The ending is quite predictable, and left me with a disappointed feeling, as I could see this could have been much better.
Cherryh used something of the same type of plot line and character interaction in her Cuckoo's Egg, but there the resolution of the story held up to the premises and promise of its beginnings, making for a much better story, and I would recommend that book in preference to this one. Read this one only if you are desperate for more Cherryh to read.
---Reviewed by Patrick Shepherd (hyperpat)
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on 28 August 2003
Paladin is one of my all time favourite books. I've read it dozens of times and it's as good now as when I read it the first time. CJ Cherryh can really tell a great tale. Buy this book, and buy all her Chanur books too. They're great.
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on 15 October 2014
A page turner that once started I couldn't put down.
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VINE VOICEon 8 May 2008
C.J. Cherryh has the unfortunate ability of being able to capture my interest in the first half of her books, and then utterly destroying it in the second. This isn't the first book of hers which I've started with high hopes, only to be dissapointed later on.

The first half of the book is indeed pretty good. An exiled swordsman is persuaded to train a woman, so that she can deliver vengence to her enemies. The interaction between the two (very stubborn) characters is well-written and enjoyable.

There is a point during the story (though I don't want to give away spoilers) in which a certain event occured which left me very dissapointed due to its unbelievability. I felt that the author should have spent more time on the scene, made it longer, for such an event had been building up throughout much of the story so-far, and it was not given the attention I had anticipated. The scene felt disheartening after I had spent so much of the story anticipating, and I felt somewhat uneasy that the rest of the plot would be resolved with equal dissapointment.

And truly, it was an overal dissapointment. After the first half of the book is done with, the pacing settles down to a predictable journey to the enemies gates, rallying of ally forces and the eventual confrontation with the enemy. The story thus far had been about a woman's drive for vengence and her determination to fulfil her desire, but later it just becomes a (very poor) war story, as the characters travel towards their target amassing troops and fighting enemy forces.

There's little more character development. Perhaps I was just bored and missed an entire chapter somehow, but it seems at one point the Taizu receives an injury but you only learn about it AFTER it has happened.

The journey to the enemy's gates is confusing (and therefore boring). I had little idea of setting, distance or anything of the sort (and I'm not going to keep referring to a map in order to let the author get away with poor world building) and there were too many names. Far, far too many characters whom I had to keep track of and none of them for which I particularly developed any liking. In fact, though I'd come to rather care for the characters during the first half of the book, by the end, the only character I still cared for was the horse.

I was tempted to give this book two stars, but I gave it three due to the good first half, and because the second half is not so terrible as to be utterly unreadable (though in truth, I'd have liked to have given up but my conscience wouldn't allow me to quit after having invested so much time already. I don't know why I bothered though).
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