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Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

(The Siege #1)

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  4,966 ratings  ·  771 reviews
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 mirac
Trade Paperback, First Edition, 350 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Orbit
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Paul I've only read the Fencer Trilogy, The Engineer Trilogy, The Devil You Know and this; that said, the answer to your question is yes.…moreI've only read the Fencer Trilogy, The Engineer Trilogy, The Devil You Know and this; that said, the answer to your question is yes.(less)
Sarah an audiobook was published by Hachette Audio. Check your local library for a downloadable copy.

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Average rating 4.11  · 
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Start your review of Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City (The Siege, #1)
A solid meh on my enjoyment scale.

Historical military fiction with a snarky first person narrator. Engineers will likely love this ode to their profession and ingenuity, and fans of military strategy should enjoy the details as well. The story centers on a former slave, Orhan, who is now the leader of a large group of engineers in the army of his oppressor, the Empire of Robur. When bad things start happening to the Empire, he finds himself working to defend it using all his ingenuity and guile.
Sean Barrs
This was so much fun. I could tell that K.J Parker had a real laugh when writing it. Orhan is a great character, and although he is hilariously out if his depth his keen mind allows him to pull through a rather tricky situation, though not without several awkward blunders.

Orhan is an engineer, not a military man, and he finds himself leading the defence of a city he doesn’t really care about. He’s got no real experience giving battlefield orders; he’s used to organising men to build bridges and
Allison Hurd
This was hot garbage to my sensibilities. I'm sorry, I know many found it "funny' or exciting or whatever, please don't read on. I have plenty of problematic faves, so as long as you recognize that the jokes come with the cost of being sexist, racist, and queerphobic, and can find points to enjoy anyways, good job, you've found joy in art, continue to enjoy the things you like. If you haven't contemplated those ideas yet, allow me to undermine it all.

CONTENT WARNINGS: (view spoiler)

Parker is back at it! What an absolute pleasure! All the things you love about his writing and then some!

Unreliable narrator, deeply flawed yet genius protagonist, dry intelligent humour, immersive setting and characters. I mean... this is a top shelf read. Highest possible recommendation! 5 🌟

This is a stand-alone novel too - so no pressure to commit to the series. But if you tried this... you will be after The Two of Swords, and Savages, and Sharps, and The Folding Knife... it is addictive
First person narration, funny, irreverent, lots of twists - being a huge fan of the author and reading pretty much all his books, I saw some ahead of time as those occur frequently throughout his work, but it still managed to surprise me quite often.

While the ending has a conclusion so to speak, I really hope this is the start of a new series as advertised. There is an epilogue that sort of connects it with other works at least as some naming like met d'Oc, or events like Perimadeia's destructi
Spencer Orey
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was fun. A great grumpy but competent engineer main character has to defend a fantasy Rome from its destruction. I listened to this one and thought the narrator matched the story perfectly.
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019

The worms declared war on the lions, and all the animals in the forest were sure the lions would win. But the lions couldn’t catch the worms, because they dug down into the ground and wouldn’t come out and fight. But at night, when the lions were asleep, the worms crawled through their ears and ate their brains and killed them, every one. It’s a popular story, where I come from, though the Robur have never heard of it. And when I tell it to my Imperial friends, I always ask them first, which wo
Heidi The Reader
"Orhan." Nobody called me that. "You're a clever man and you use your brain, which makes you unique in this man's town, but you've got to do something about your attitude." "Attitude? Me?" pg 16

Through a series of unfortunate events, Orhan, the leader of a group of military engineers, finds himself in charge of the defense of "the City", the capital of the Robur empire. The Robur empire seems to have been loosely based on the Roman empire, which, in its conquering of the world, took diverse sets
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
" a wise man once said, the difference between luck and a wheelbarrow is, luck doesn't work if you push it."

And just like that, I'm in.

Less fantasy than parable, K.J. Parker's clever little book is set in an alternate version of the Holy Roman Empire - which, frankly, is a fine milieu for the story of a siege. Told entirely in the first person by a nefarious engineer named Orhan, we are treated to a detailed defensive campaign against a bold and mysterious enemy possessed of overwhelming fo
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Orhan was the greatest voice I’ve read in many a year. Fabulous!
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City is quite a different book and I absolutely loved it. In some ways it is like a practical application of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War because the telling of the story relies on strategy, forethought, knowing one’s enemy and intelligent application of the techniques of battle rather than anything decidedly heroic or magical. Orhan can do more with a mile of rope, a bucket of nails and some support beams stolen from an old church than most men can do with a whole ar ...more
K.J. Charles
A sort of strategy adventure set in an alt-Byzantium, where a mid-ranking engineer finds himself in charge of saving not-Byzantium from the beseiging hordes. It's very good on the practical details of ancient siege warfare and logistics (if this sounds dull, it really isn't, Parker is terrific at this stuff and it's a much more interesting look at warfare than as a matter of people hitting other people). The City is brilliantly depicted, and the sense of claustrophobia and fear are fantastic, as ...more
Manuel Antão
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Homage to Engineers: "Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City" by by K.J. Parker

“My belief is, either you understand things or you understand people. Nobody can do both. Frankly, I’m happier with things. I understand stuff like tensile strength, shearing force, ductility, work hardening, stress, fatigue. I know the same sort of things happen with people, but the rules are subtly different. And nobody’s ever paid for my time to get to know
May 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
I liked this book a lot. I found myself totally engrossed in the defense of the City, led by an unlikely hero with an extremely smart mouth. Orhan's narration is funny, and it fits perfectly with the realities of the situation. Under siege, you're dealing with the enemy, sure, but mostly what you're dealing with is the shifting allegiance of your own people.

Some things I really liked: (view spoiler)
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
"The worms of the Earth against the lions."

The sweetly realized success of Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City really hinges on its witty depiction of the protagonist, Orhan, head of the Imperial army engineers, with all his myriad inconsistencies and personal faults, including an innate cowardice. An outsider, having faced racial discrimination his whole life, he's reluctantly thrust into a position of authority when he'd really rather be building bridges and making gadgets.

The story becomes o
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
“According to the books (there’s an extensive literature on the subject) there are fifteen ways to defend a walled city. You can try one of them and, if that doesn’t work...What the books don’t tell you is, there’s a sixteenth way. You can use it when you’ve got nothing; no stuff, no men, and nobody to lead them. Apart from that it’s got nothing to recommend it whatsoever.”

I’ve discovered KJ Parker late in my life, through his brilliant novellas. I became a believer. Brilliant minds impress
Oleksandr Zholud
This is a historical fiction about the siege of Constantinople, masquerading as fantasy, and written as a witty personal account. While the cover praises the author as “one of the fantasy primer voices”, there are no ‘classical’ elements of fantasy present: no magic or magic beasts, no non-human races and no gods, which actively interfere.

The story is narrated by the head of Imperial Engineers, Orhan, who, despite being a slave and milkface (a derogatory term used by blueskin Roburs – a nation e

“…as a wise man once said, the difference between luck and a wheelbarrow is, luck doesn’t work if you push it.”

I have put off reading this book. I didn’t want to do it. The reason isn’t what you probably expect. You see, K.J. Parker is my favorite author, and I always have issues when reading his books, because I don’t want them to end. The best way to keep a book from ending? Don’t start it.

My logic is flawless.

Anyway, I decided enough was enough. It wa
Jul 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
A wise man once said, it's not the despair that destroys you, it's the hope.

This was an absolutely brilliant read! I've always had a bit of a soft spot for a clever yet flawed underdog protagonist, who unreliably narrates his own story - Orhan, Colonel of Engineers was an excellent main character:

'My belief is, either you understand things or you understand people. Nobody can do both. Frankly, I'm happier with things. I understand stuff like tensile strength, shearing force, ductility, work hard
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
The title is a bit misleading, there is no explanation about each way to defend a walled city. (doh!)

But from the title we can get the idea and expectation about the novel, and it is pretty accurate: It is a low fantasy about defending a walled city. We can expect humors as per we can expect from Tom Holt K. J. Parker. Well, with this author, we can already expect some things, and if you already familiar with author's other works, you don't need to read my next paragraph and just read the book.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-ebooks
4.5 stars

I shook my head. “I’m not a court of law,” I said. “I’m not bound to do what’s just, or what’s right, or what’s in the interests of the human race. If I was, you’d be warming your hands by a nice big fire right now. But I’m not. And I reserve the right to be wrong, if I choose to be.”

This is my story, and if I choose to make myself look as good as I think I can get away with, why not?
Jan 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, fantasy, war
A nice diversion from the other two books I am reading. (a Russian novel written and set in the 1930's Soviet Union and a section in a biography of Churchill detailing how the world was going to hell in the 1930's). Told from the perspective of an Imperial engineer who finds himself in defense of the capital city of an Empire loosely based on Rome and Byzantium the story is fast paced and full of (in my opinion) delightful asides and anecdotes. While mostly concerning itself with how to defend t ...more
Dawn C
Nov 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: group-shelf
A really hard book to rate. I loved many things about it - the low fantasy (no magic, or non-human creatures, basically an alternative siege of Constantinople history), the personal account, lots of dialogue, the strategy adventure, the unreliable narrator literary device.

But many things didn’t work. The humor was cringeworthy and awkward, juvenile even. The tone in the book is meant to be smug and humorous, because our narrator Orhan thinks he’s funny, but he’s really not, and unfortunately it
Ned Lud
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Forgot how awesome Parker is. Silly me. His character dialogue is peerless.
Edit: After a second read I have decided this may be Parker’s best work. But what do I know? It made me laugh more times than I can remember. I really needed that. So that’s all right, then.
Sep 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
Judging by goodreads ratings, K.J. Parker is criminally underrated author. He writes such a wonderful, witty stories about hilarious, smart but deeply flawed and delusional characters, set in his alternative version of byzantine world.
Excellent stuff.
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I swear, there's nothing in this world as satisfying as the sound of a beautifully made machine working perfectly.


I want more of this.

When's the last time you read a book that uses an engineering corps as its main point of focus?
Orhan, colonel of the Corps of Engineers, has to defend the city from an approaching army. With limited supplies, few soldiers and opposing factions within the city, Orhan wheedles, connives, lies, devises, and invents to try and hold off the inevitable.

Dry humor, w
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, fantasy

Balls, balls, balls.

To say I'm annoyed at that ending would be a towering understatement. It simply ruined what had gone before, and what had gone before was quite wonderful. I was pressed to give it five stars, I had enjoyed it that much.

In summation: balls.
Paul  Perry
I’ve been reading Tom Holt since Expecting Someone Taller in the early 90s, and KJ Parker since stumbling across the Shadow trilogy in the 2000s, and wasn’t aware for a long time that the latter was a pseudonym for the former - or, to be more contemporaneous, that many people suspected KJ Parker was a pseudonym for a well-known writer, and there was quite heated discussion within the community as to their identity.

Not that I’d have been that interested - I’ve always been more interested in the w
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I was sure I’d enjoy this book when I read the description or some comment mentioning that this would be a humorous fantasy novel. I wasn’t expecting the next Discworld, but I had high hopes for it.

As ingredients I got a setting reminiscent of the Roman Empire, with a smart-ass narrator who frequently breaks the fourth wall just to remind us that this fantasy is not so distant from our own situation, pokes fun at bureaucracy, racism, the magnifying effect of crowds, all of human pride and folly
Martin Owton
Dec 03, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this one. I liked the central character, his voice, his ingenuity and his awareness of his own limitations. The world worked well with a setting drawing on both Rome and Byzantium. The pacing was taut and even throughout. The only aspect that stopped me giving 5 stars was the ending. You'll understand when you read it, which I would recommend you do. ...more
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K.J. Parker is a pseudonym for Tom Holt.

According to the biographical notes in some of Parker's books, Parker has previously worked in law, journalism, and numismatics, and now writes and makes things out of wood and metal. It is also claimed that Parker is married to a solicitor and now lives in southern England. According to an autobiographical note, Parker was raised in rural Vermont, a lifest

Other books in the series

The Siege (3 books)
  • How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It (The Siege, #2)
  • A Practical Guide to Conquering the World (The Siege, #3)

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