Sword-master Shoka Saukendar has turned his back on the world and lives as hermits live with his old war-horse Jiru on a mountain said to be demon-hunted. Refusing contact with the rest of the world, Saukendar is less than amused to find another shabby peasant boy at his doorstep asking him for training. But this peasant boy is a sixteen year-old girl with a lot of persistence. Faced with a siege Saukendar finally gives in and swears to train Taizu.
Taizu is an earnest and fast learner, aspiring to kill lord Gitu who killed her family. Saukendar, on the other hand, is trying to get her to abandon her quest which he thinks will just get her killed. Seeing the talent in Taizu and the benefit of someone helping in the house, he no longer wants to see the scar-faced girl in Muigan nunnery but rather in his bed.
After two years of hard training, much quabbling, and Saukendars more or less subtle attempts to get Taizu in his bed, he isn´t able to hold her with him and so Shoka Saukendar -- having decided to see that his pupil doesn´t do anything stupid, and still hoping to get her back to his mountain -- sets out with his "demon-wife" (Taizu) to kill one lord Gitu. But the story ends in a greater mess than any of them imagined, because the land of the Heavenly Emporer isn´t what it had been when "master Shoka" left the world eleven years ago.
The Paladin is a really interesting and from time to time humorous fantasy in an Eastern-Asian setting. One grows fond of grim Taizu and lame Shoka, who is still hurt by the betrayal his charge, the young emporer, comitted against him. Like other Cherryh books one should have much time at hand, otherwise one has to fight the constant urge to snatch a few more words and ignore the clock.