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

Rating: 4 out of 5

This book was fun to read. From the first moments of the story, the protagonist Orhan tended to weave a net of logic that covered his adventures in charge of a city (the city) in a grand spiral, always reaching toward a final destination. Some of the plot turns happened as expected, others took a bit more time to come to fruition. The real twist for me was the epilogue — but I’ll leave that for any reader to discover.

The culture and the setting were perhaps what I was most disappointed in. To find most names either obviously Latin or Greek, and the talk of the city so reminiscent of Constantinople, especially the court intrigue and functionaries, almost made me beg for the author to have been a little less obvious in his ‘inspiration’. Yet, this was not meant to be a world that would charm the reader by its depth. The charming was meant to happen through the characters — and that it did.

But that also brings me to another point: I have not read another book that was so POV. It is customary these days to rotate the viewpoint around and to allow more than one person to speak. This, however, is all a book of Orhan. This naturally also meant that any personal biases were also Orhan’s, and the view we get is very single-minded. This doesn’t detract from the book, but one should also be aware that there is no great dichotomy of feelings in how the characters play their role.

My enemies have always come through for me, and I owe them everything. My friends, on the other hand, have caused me nothing but aggravation and pain.

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