[[caption-width-right:200:Cover of the first edition]]

''The Paladin'' is a 1988 stand-alone LowFantasy novel by Creator/CJCherryh, better known for her science fiction. In a land resembling [[ImperialChina medieval China]] in some ways and similar-period Japan in others, young pig-keeper Taizu shows up at the door of legendary, exiled swordsman Master Saukendar, seeking martial training so that she can exact {{revenge}} on those who killed her family. Saukendar has turned down every hopeful who's ascended his mountain to disturb his exile, but Taizu is determined to be the exception.

Saukendar isn't all he's cracked up to be, and yet he is; a lot of the story is about the inner man, Shoka, versus the outer legend, Saukendar. The story is largely told from his perspective, and we watch as Taizu changes him just as much as he changes her.

Written in the same year as the final volume of the ''Literature/MorgaineCycle'', ''Exile's Gate'', ''The Paladin'' has a very similar feel. It takes the same Asian, Samurai-influenced aspects seen in Vanye and applies them to a more Asian world and (unusually for a Cherryh viewpoint character) a more mature man, inverting the age and experience dynamic of the Morgaine series but not so much the emotional one.

!!This work provides examples of:
* ActionGirl -- Taizu, and played quite realistically; she's acknowledged as physically incredibly capable -- the best student Shoka could ever hope for -- yet he drives home to her again and again how much size, strength and reach count against her, how all someone has to be to be a danger is taller, stronger and half as skilled.
* AmazonChaser: Taizu's mentor, Shoka.
* ArcherArchetype -- As befits a {{samurai}}, Shoka is a highly skilled bowman as well as a sword-master, a skill that proves useful for hunting in his exile. When Taizu shows up on his mountain, she's already skilled with a bow, since bows are weapons permitted to peasants. Her bow is crude and self-made, but her technique is not. Shoka's calm, strategic view of battle fits the trope quite well, and he teaches Taizu to view combat that way too.
* ArrowsOnFire -- employed by Shoka to sow confusion, fear and panic.
* ArrangedMarriage -- Shoka's unrequited love Meiya with young Emperor Beijun.
* BattleCouple -- Taizu and Shoka, naturally.
* BestServedCold -- Taizu's revenge on Lord Gita; she knows she cannot get close as an unskilled peasant girl, so she seeks out the training and experience she needs to have a chance.
* ButNowIMustGo -- [[spoiler:subverted. Taizu thinks she has to fulfill this trope, but Shoka has other ideas.]]
* ChivalrousPervert -- Shoka, with Taizu.
* CivilWar -- what Saukendar's return to Chiyaden might spark.
* ContemptibleCover -- some of them; the one shown here and the British paperback edition show properly Asian depictions of Taizu, but on other covers she and Shoka are given a RaceLift, the UnfortunateImplications of which may have as much to do with misinterpreting the title as anything else.
* CoolHorse -- Jiro, Shoka's aging warhorse, who's probably the third most important character in the whole thing. Proud, stubborn, regal, bad-tempered yet soft-hearted. That Jiro accepts Taizu so quickly is foreshadowing for Shoka's more grudging acceptance.
* CourtlyLove -- what was between Shoka and Meiya, the Emperor's wife.
* TheEmperor -- although Beijun is a pretty pathetic, feckless example. His father better fit the stereotype of Benevolent Emperor, except for his blindness about his son's failings.
* ExpectingSomeoneTaller -- Taizu at first thinks that Shoka is the great Saukendar's servant, rather than the man himself.
* FantasyCounterpartCulture -- a combination of China in some ways and Japan in others.
* GoodScarsEvilScars -- Taizu's, vertically downward from one eye down her cheek, is one of the classic "Good" scars, though it's more severe than most and goes all the way down her neck.
* GossipEvolution -- the process through which the actions of the real man Shoka become the mythic endeavors of the great Saukendar.
* ImperialChina -- in FantasyCounterpartCulture form, although with Japanese influences as well.
* LowFantasy -- of the "no visible magic" kind. Belief in magic and spirits is common, but we see nothing to suggest that it is any more true here than in our world.
* MasterSwordsman -- Shoka, although he's only ever had two students; the feckless young Emperor, and Taizu. Plenty of others have begged to study under him.
* MayDecemberRomance -- at the beginning, Taizu is about sixteen and Shoka is nearly forty.
* MomentKiller -- Bandits.
* {{Ninja}} -- as the Emperor's bodyguard, Shoka learned a lot about the tactics of assassins, which he teaches Taizu, and employs himself, no longer feeling bound by propriety after his exile. He disguises them as servants, for instance.
* NobleFugitive -- Saukendar, who fled, escaped by force of arms, and lives in a lonely exile just outside the Empire's borders.
* ObfuscatingStupidity -- Shoka is good at playing the fool in order to confuse his enemies.
* OffWithHisHead -- decapitation is the fate of [[spoiler:Ghita, by Shoka]] and [[spoiler:Gitu, by Taizu]].
* OldMaster -- what Master Saukendar is in legend, at least, although he's not quite forty.
* PygmalionPlot -- Shoka falls in love with what Taizu becomes, although as much with those parts he did not guide as those he did.
* RapeAsBackstory -- The explanation for a lot of Taizu's distrust of Shoka initially, and of men in general, though it's played subtly and she never expects sympathy.
* RegentForLife -- Ghita, who is still Regent in the Emperor's thirtieth year, and who had killed or exiled everyone whose duty it was to ensure the Emperor grew up and took responsibility.
* {{Revenge}} -- Taizu's primary motivation, and revenge denied and sublimated is part of Shoka's makeup as well.
* {{Samurai}} -- what Shoka effectively is, and the way in which he trains Taizu.
* SamusIsAGirl -- for about a chapter, granted, before Shoka's skilled eye catches the slightly different movement of a girl's skeletal structure.
* ScarsAreForever -- Taizu has a scar running "from cheek to chin to neck and down beneath the grimy collar", as we're told in the prologue. She was attacked on the road from Hua to seek Master Saukendar, who later gives her salve to help it heal and soften the scarred skin. He also, later, teaches her not to hide from others' gaze because of it.
* SecondLove -- Taizu is the second woman Shoka has loved; the first was unrequited, with Meiya, who became the Emperor's wife.
* SnowballLie -- Shoka allows the villagers of Mon to believe that Taizu is [[spoiler:a demon]] and the story spins out of control until everyone in the empire, it seems, has heard the story.
* UnequalPairing -- Shoka's almost 40 at the beginning of the novel, Taizu is about sixteen, and she's his student, though the relationship doesn't go beyond that until almost two years later.
* WaifFu -- so averted; Taizu has to work really hard and build up some serious musculature to be a danger in a fight, and we see every step of the way.
* WaxOnWaxOff -- Taizu's apprenticeship starts off as entirely menial tasks; this is mostly in order to build up her strength and endurance, although Shoka's desire for comfort and looking for excuses to get out of the training promise are part of it.
* YouKilledMyFather -- though in Taizu's case, it's more "You killed my whole family, village and Lord".