Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City v Zeitgeist

  • Beer: Zeitgeist
  • Brewery: Paradigm Brewery
  • Style: Vienna Craft Ale
  • Strength: 4.5%

This tastes and smells of something I can’t quite put my finger on. Something sweet and baked, but not cake. It’s got a rich, caramel flavour cut across by a sharp bitterness. But it is that smell that’s freaking unbelievable.

  • Book: 16 Ways to Defend a Walled City
  • Author: KJ Parker
  • Publisher: Orbit
  • Published: 2019

I haven’t read the subsequent two books but from what I understand they are loosely connected standalones. Regardless, this book itself can definitely stand alone.

If you are a fan of sieges in your fantasy books then they don’t come any better than this. It’s looks a lot more at the logistical and political side of things than something like Legend (Gemmell) or The Red Knight (Cameron) and is all the more intriguing for it.

Our protagonist is a low to middling officer who leads a troop of engineers. Through circumstances unforeseen, Orhan ends up as the highest ranking military official in a city under siege. He is a cheat, a liar and has failed to progress in his career because of an inability to accept authority.

I’m not sure of the setting, it doesn’t feel traditionally medieval European but nor did not have an entirely classical feel. Byzantine perhaps. The city being defended definitely has a Mediterranean vibe which I liked. One of the first things Orhan has to do is get the city’s rival gladiator crews onboard and working together as makeshift soldiers.

The high-stakes micro-politicking is what stands out as the most fascinating aspect for me. Stopping everybody inside the city from looting and killing eachother for long enough to organise rationing of supplies, while also trying to think up ways of using what’s already in the city in aid of the defenses. That is made even more difficult when it means commandeering people’s property.

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