The Paladin

The PaladinLooking for a night in shining armor, a paragon of virtue and flawless character An untarnished hero who is a beacon of light standing against the darkness Look somewhere else.In a nutshell we have the main character, and exiled sword master from a china like fantasy kingdom A peasant girl whose family have been casualties of the political strife in his former kingdom comes to him and demands that he train her so that she can revenge herself on the Lord responsible I don t think that it s really a spoiler to tell you that he does so, and that they embark on a quest to get her revenge All fairly standard stuff The entire story is told as a stream of consciousness narrative from the perspective of the aging sword master, Shoka He is not always a lovely person, or easy to like He is impatient, irritable and very much a product of his culture, which is patriarchal and oppressive of women Several times in the narrative he half seriously considers raping his student to end her foolishness He never does of course regardless of his thoughts he is at his core an honorable and practical man, or at least tries to be Whether you ever come to like him or not, he is complex, interesting, human and completely believable in context In the course of the book we meet Taizu, the peasant girl hell bent on revenge We come to know her entirely through Shoka s eyes It s fascinating to watch her become, not just a nuisance, not just a student and source of sexual frustration, but a complex and interesting person in her own right One that he comes to value and even love.Which of these two is the paladin referred to in the title I ve reread this book many times over the years and I still can t decide Perhaps it is both Regardless of how many times I read this book I always find it a rich and satisfying experience. An intense but fun novel about a young woman in a Japan ish fantasyland and her relationship with the retired swordsman who reluctantly trains her Nowhere near as cliched as you might imagine, and full of marvelous training sequences Not a fantasy except in the sense of taking place in a country that doesn t exist. I m of two minds about C.J Cherryh s The Paladin It starts out promisingly, with the peasant girl Taizu arriving at the mountain hideaway of Saukendar, exiled swordmaster, and begging him to teach her to fight Unwillingly, he accepts her as a pupil, and the first half of the book explores the training and their growing relationship I found this section entirely engrossing It s all from Saukendar s point of view, and it s fascinating to watch him reluctantly grow to accept and even care for Taizu, and to watch her develop from an untrained girl into a woman warrior.Then, about halfway through, Saukendar and Taizu leave his retreat in order to carry out Taizu s revenge on the Emperor s Regent, who despoiled her homeland For me, it was all downhill from there The book lost its tight focus on the relationship which was the center of the first half, and although it remained important, of course, it was replaced with politics and geography that just never made sense to me though it s perfectly possible that this was merely a visualization problem on my part I was so enthralled by the beginning of The Paladin that the less focused or differently focused, I suppose ending was a disappointment, but I d recommend it nonetheless, at least for the first half. I forced myself to finish this one because it counts for my WWE Women of Genre Fiction challenge, but I wasn t very happy about it This isn t a great introduction to C.J Cherryh s work, I think it s a standalone fantasy ish alternate history ish story, which would normally be right up my alley It s even a break from the medieval European fantasy that gluts the genre, based on Chinese culture and history so far as I can tell It has a strong female protagonist who becomes a swordswoman And if she d been the main character or accurately, the point of view character I d have loved it, I think.I was encouraged to finish reading it, anyway, by Jo Walton s positive review I do like her point about turning the traditional story around telling it from the female protagonist s point of view would be the expected way to do it I like the realism of it, the military training that is described in a way that makes you feel it, but without detail where it can slip from lack of research I did enjoy the world, the training, Taizu s determination, the details of caring for horses and sleeping on the ground and snatching sleep for fear of bandits.But I didn t find the love story Walton mentions nearly so compelling From the start, Shoka thinly veils from himself and the reader that he wants to rape Taizu, and that he believes it won t be his fault if he does It s all the male excuses for rape ever she tempted me just by existing , I haven t had sex in so long I need it , what did she expect when she shacked up alone with a lonely guy despite his promise to her that he s not expecting her to have sex with him and, just, ugh A certain amount of it I can put down to culture, and a certain amount I can see as part of a character s journey, but I don t feel like Shoka really made that journey He did develop as a character somewhat, becoming part of the world again, but his attitudes to women didn t change, only his attitude to a single woman.Taizu is an amazing character in herself dogged, intelligent, brave, and at the same time not perfect, struggling with herself and with Shoka and with her past She does have a journey, going from being a farmer girl bent on revenge to being a swordswoman who is, quite honestly, suited to the Way Shoka talks about than he is He worries about her dishonouring him, but she would never All the dishonour comes from Shoka himself.Anyway, once I got about two thirds of the way through, I began to enjoy it As Shoka begins to trust Taizu, he becomes that bit likeable, the story that bit dynamic, though I could ve lived without him constantly calling her a fool or acting like she can t take care of herself Clearly, she can.So, in summary, it s worth reading for Taizu, if you like slow building stories about military training and eventual revenge I think the closest comparison is to Across The Nightingale Floor Lian Hearn , which I loved when I read it But be warned rapey Now Betrayed By The Emperor He Once Protected, Master Swordsman Saukendar Leaves The Way Of The Sword Behind Him Forever So He Thinks When A Headstrong Peasant Girl Burning To Avenge Her Murdered Family Demands That He Train Her, Saukendar Is Faced With A Momentous Choice Send Taizu Away, Never See Her Again Or Join Her And Destroy The Tyrant Who Has Nearly Destroyed Them Both I blush to admit it, but I was thinking Andre Norton and her usual coming of age female protagonists when I grabbed this book off the new book shelf at the library which is where the librarians put various books on display, whether they are new or not Consequently, I was a bit surprised as I got into the book about the slightly risqu relationship between the two major figures To tell the truth, it had been so long since I had read any of Cherryh s other books the only one I could think of offhand was Down Below Station that I had forgotten everything except a general feeling of liking for her work I have now refreshed my memory by visiting her very interesting Website, however, so I do not expect to make that error again and I shall be looking for others of her books that I have not read.Let me start by expressing surprise that this has not been made into a movie That might be because the action moves slowly for the first half of the book, necessarily I did not find that at all bad, but I suspect a film director might be looking for action The remainder of the book then leaps into full action, however, for as much as any film director is apt to want, so I remain puzzled as to why someone has not seen the film potential.The Paladin of the title is an aging warrior in a far off mythical country that is given an Asian flair and might be China of a bygone age Now in his forties, Shoka Saukendar has been living alone with his aging horse on top of a mountain on the outskirts of the empire for twelve years, after escaping from repeated assassination attempts when the young emperor assumed the throne and feel under the power of an evil advisor Because of his great reputation, young men from noble houses all over the empire have come to seek his training throughout the past decade, but he has always turned them away, and no one knows that part of the reason is that he was badly wounded in his last battle and now walks with a limp Now, however, comes a 16 year old farm girl, Taizu, who has lost her family in the most recent grab for power by the evil regent, her face horribly scarred by her own close escape, and she has walked half way across the empire, avoiding all the bandits and pitfalls along the way, to seek his training so that she can get revenge Saukendar is not interested in her plight, but she turns out to be incredibly stubborn as well as resourceful, and the end result is that he agrees to train her for a year, in return for which she will do all the household duties but she adamantly refuses to sleep in his bed He does not expect this situation to last very long, but did I say she was incredibly stubborn At the end of the year, he demonstrates to her that she is not ready to take on the world, so she agrees to stay another year, insisting that he is not teaching her well enough By the end of the second year, Saukendar is in love with his student that he is willing to admit, but she adamantly insists on going back to her homeland to seek revenge and so, of course, nothing will do but that he must put on his old suit of armor and go with her to take on the world.That s the first half of the book The rest tells the story of what happens when a still remembered warrior reappears in the world and starts interacting with bandits, trade caravans, and military groups, all of whom start looking for him as the rumors begin to fly, and all of whom are too quick to overlook the now beautiful young woman who has spent two dedicated years learning how to be a warrior. Cherryh is one of my favourite authors, and this is one of my favourites of her many books.In some ways it s not a typical Cherryh book, as some of the usual characteristics of her style are absent or muted most noticeably there s far less emphasis than usual on the internal thought processes of the protagonists Most of her books could never be described as action oriented even the recent volumes in the Foreigner series, which have tended towards excitement, are still built around the evolution of Bren s thinking as he puzzles out what is happening and what his next steps should be and some such as the famous Cyteen consist of almost nothing else.Which is not a criticism I ve read and enjoyed virtually everything Cherryh has written and automatically pick up her new stuff as it comes out.But The Paladin has a very different feel and satisfies a different mood it s as close to escapism as Cherryh gets Much action than usual, the progression of a novice through combat training, the description of the ad hoc revolt the hero is forced into leading even a romantic element, though as others have said that does have some elements that can seem creepy I choose to read it as a concession to realism All while still delivering good characterization and believable motivations. I like Cherryh, and I think this is her best book It isn t exactly a fantasy, since there is no magic, although the male protagonist uses other people s belief in magic, as he uses every other tool he can find It isn t exactly a historical novel, since the author has created her own map and society based on some mix of Chinese and Japanese The male protagonist is a brilliant, bitter man who has surrendered long ago gone into exile to get out of a corrupt political struggle which he cannot win, become a hermit Assassins have occasionally been sent to kill him, and died he is very good at killing people Nobody has bothered for a long time, since he obviously isn t going to come back and rejoin the game.And then a peasant girl shows up, demands that he take her as an apprentice and teach her the skills she needs to get revenge on the people who destroyed her village and injured her He refuses She succeeds in compelling him to change his mind And, eventually, in pulling him into the struggle that he had long ago abandoned.A brilliant, moving story about two very able and complicated people It s the reason that Cherryh was one of the three people I dedicated my first novel to The date I finished reading the book is a guess This fantasy novel is set in a world that is very clearly inspired by East Asian culture and history It is the story of Shoka, an exiled member of the nobility and master swordsman, and Taizu, the young girl who shows up at his mountain retreat Scarred mentally and physically by the political turmoil and violence of the outside world, she convinces Shoka to teach her so that she can take revenge against those who destroyed her home and her formerly peaceful life Shoka initially resists the idea, but does teach her, and she proves to be an exceptionally talented student As Taizu s skill grows, so does a tender and complex relationship between her and Shoka This is a very familiar and well tread plotline, yet Cherryh largely avoids making it trite or cliched She has a wonderful talent for combining action and adventure with thoughtfulness and introspection From what I ve read of her other novels, this is a pretty consistent feature of her style, and here it is the main thing that keeps a well worn story fresh. Okay For the first two thirds or so, this was a full on five star book It was a completely awesome story of a reclusive master swordsman who lives on a mountain in the middle of nowhere, and this girl who comes and insists he train her Totally great I love an apprentice story, which is basically a makeover story and I have probably said before that I LOVE makeover stories , and the characters were interesting and behaved like normal, stupid people.AND THEN, just when things are getting good, they go off and get caught up in an EXTREMELY BORING WAR that lasts for the entire rest of the book Seriously, I read the first part in one day and the rest took me almost a week to finish sigh.

Currently resident in Spokane, Washington, C.J Cherryh has won four Hugos and is one of the best selling and most critically acclaimed authors in the science fiction and fantasy field She is the author of than forty novels Her hobbies include travel, photography, reef culture, Mariners baseball, and, a late passion, figure skating she intends to compete in the adult USFSA track She began

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  • Mass Market Paperback
  • 400 pages
  • The Paladin
  • C.J. Cherryh
  • English
  • 16 April 2018
  • 9780671318376

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