Picking up The Paladin has been an interesting experience. It’s an older standalone fantasy book that was first published in 1988 and has since been largely forgotten, I believe. The author is the fantastic C.J. Cherryh, of whom I’m a fan. She has an amazing collection of work, and if one hasn’t read her yet, one probably should at least sample her work.
I’ve had the mass-market paperback for years now, and it was one of the few fantasy books I read back when I was in middle school. My memories of my first read-through are vague. I remembered a strong warrior and a woman who comes to train with him. I specifically remember a scene where he orders her to carry water up a hill and back down to strengthen her.
I didn’t remember (and was probably too young to notice) just how much of the book was openly sexual. Strangely enough, I didn’t remember that the book was set in an east-asian themed land either.
This book can be best be divided into two halves (although not formally). The book follows a self-exiled swordmaster named Shoka and a female pupil, Taizu, who longs to study under him. Roughly, and without trying to give too much away, the first half of the book is about the two’s training and developing relationship, and the back half becomes a quest.
The first half is tight and beautifully written. Love or hate the characters (and its perhaps likely you’ll do both), the first half is filled with the insight and wisdom that I believe defines Cherryh’s work. The second half quickly becomes a confusion of names and events, that while not poor, don’t match the promise of the first half.
If you’re interested in non-medieval European fantasy, this is certainly a solid option. The first half, in particular, is very well done. However, if you’re looking to dive into Cherryh’s work, I might perhaps suggest a different starting point.