Review: Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker

Rating: 7/10


This is the story of Orhan, son of Siyyah Doctus Felix Praeclarissimus, and his history of the Great Siege, written down so that the deeds and sufferings of great men may never be forgotten.

A siege is approaching, and the city has little time to prepare. The people have no food and no weapons, and the enemy has sworn to slaughter them all.

To save the city will take a miracle, but what it has is Orhan. A colonel of engineers, Orhan has far more experience with bridge-building than battles, is a cheat and a liar, and has a serious problem with authority. He is, in other words, perfect for the job.


Previously a DNF because I had too much going on at the time, Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City (SWDWC) is an entertaining story with a unique voice.

If I had to compare SWDWC to a food, it’d be chicken livers. Not for everyone, but people that like ’em really like ’em. And in this case I liked ’em.

Orhan is an engineer. If you’ve ever been friends with an engineer, you know they can be a bit off-the-wall to say the least. Orhan deals in facts and figures and is extremely pragmatic. He’s prone to lying to get his way and pisses on authority when it means getting the job done. Often he has so many irons in the fire of his mind that it’s difficult to string together his thoughts – he skips head many steps in conversation, often leaving his subordinates in the dust, dumbfounded. This reminded me a bit of Renarin in Stormlight Archive as they both display the same tendencies in conversation.

Orhan is also milkface, a fantasy minority in a society of blue-skinned people. There are class differences that divide Orhan’s society, which makes it all the more remarkable that he is as highly-ranked as Colonel of Engineers.

When Orhan and his company of engineers happen upon their country’s army brutally slaughtered, he hightails it toward the capital city to find that there is no army left and the city is defenseless. With a conquering army pounding at the gates, Orhan assumes charge of the city and has to use every bit of his mind to defend the city for as long as he can.

It’s a real page-turner and a fun read. I think the ending fell a little flat, but I enjoyed every bit of the book. It’s worth your time if you’re looking for something new and unique. This book is not like other books! I want to read more K.J. Parker.

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