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Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City

(The Siege #1)

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  3,379 ratings  ·  519 reviews
A siege is approaching, and the City has little time left to prepare. The people have no food and no weapons, and the enemy have sworn to slaughter them all.

Their only chance rests with a colonel of engineers - a despised outsider, a genius, a master of military and political strategy with the wrong colour skin. He is the City's only hope.

But nobody, rich or poor, wants to
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published April 9th 2019 by Orbit
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This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
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.
Shasta Matova There is a followup. How to Rule an Empire and Get Away With It.
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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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

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
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Manuel Antão
Dec 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
 Charlie - A Reading Machine
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
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Orhan was the greatest voice I’ve read in many a year. Fabulous!
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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  ·  review of another edition
“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
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)
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
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
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
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?
Dec 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Charles Bronson
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.

“…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
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
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.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This is a unique and unexpected book that I had a really fun time reading.

Find this review at Forever Lost in Literature!

Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City is an unexpected book that felt really unparalleled in style to anything I've read recently. I could already tell from the synopsis that this was going to be different from other stories, but I really wasn't sure what to expect from it. The end result was an amusing and creative story with an incredibly snarky and dry-witted protagonist th
I absolutely loved this book. Easily one of my favorite reads of 2019 so far. If you're on the fence about picking this up but can sample the book, read the first chapter or so. If you don't get a chuckle out of Orhan's introduction as to how things work in "this man's army" then this is not the book for you. I loved these passages so much I insisted other people in my family listen to me read them out loud, or read them for themselves while sitting in an airport lounge on vacation. My husband r ...more
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
kartik narayanan
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City is an excellent, exciting and fun read. I loved every moment reading the book.

There is plenty of sarcasm, wit, heroism, poignancy throughout the book. The main character is brilliant and he, basically, carries the story on his shoulder. The side characters would be great in any other book but here, they are overshadowed by the brilliance of the protagonist.

If there is one nit I have to pick at, it is the fact that most situations are contrived and like a magi
Jeremy Jackson
Sep 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sheer brilliance, which is neither more nor less than anyone can expect of KJ Parker. Quite possibly his most universally accessible work yet, in the sense that it might appeal to a wider body of fantasy reader. Peppered with a few obscure nods Parkerian fanatics will recognize, particularly in the epilogue. Perhaps lacking quite the depth that I'm used to in his work, but a whole lot of fun.
Jun 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Peter Tillman
There are enough good reviews here already to save me from actually writing one. Last things first: (view spoiler) I was expecting a lighter tone -- but what else could the author have done?

Manuel Antão argues that this is really science fiction rather than fantasy: It's also engineering fiction, which suits me: I like the engineering mindset. And read Anna Feruglio Dal Dan's wonderful s
Aug 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, fantasy

I need a continuous dosis of K.J. Parker to brighten up my day. When I grabbed that eArc of How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It I found out that I should first read this novel because it is the first in the series. What a happy accident, as I enjoyed this fantasy comedy greatly and highly recommend reading it - at least if you like snarky first person perspective by an elder protagonist Orhan who happens to be an engineer and talks a lot about nerdy stuff like siege engines, bridge buildi

Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The siege of pseudo-Constantinople complete with an unreliable narrator, plenty of wry wit, and lots of siegecraft details. I loved every page. The Byzantines were blue and the emperors' names were all made up, so if you want your historical fiction historical, look elsewhere. But under the surface, it's all there and it's pretty darned accurate -- the Nika riots, the court ceremony, the Blues and the Greens, the chain across the Golden Horn, all of it.

Here's an excerpt in which the narrator has
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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 (2 books)
  • How to Rule an Empire and Get Away with It

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