Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City – K. J. Parker

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City


Orhan, ex-slave and foreigner 'milkface', has worked his way up to head the Engineering Corps in the Robur empire's army. But a series of unexpected setbacks leads to him defending the capital against a mysterious military genius.


I enjoyed this (despite having begun the series at the end). It’s chock-full of Parker’s trademark touches – the logically best option is always the one that goes wrong, someone always figures out some better way that looks obvious in hindsight, and the narrator is often confused, but wins out anyway. It all works well despite the familiarity. However, the book does begin to feel it’s repeating itself after a while – there are so many things happening, and all with a similar trajectory, that it begins to feel less a novel than a series of anecdotes.

While I didn’t find the last book in the series, A Practical Guide to Conquering the World, a good entry point for new Parker readers, this one is much more accessible. It’s focused on one man, in one place, and the relatively generic names for everything don’t matter so much.

As the book itself recognizes, there’s not much of an ending. The story just stops, fairly abruptly. While Parker works to make that fit the narrator’s character, there’s more he could have done to tie off at least some of the dozen dangling threads. Overall, an enjoyable book, if very familiar to fans.

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