This is another one of those books that i judged by its cover and title, and the fact that it was 99p in a Kindle deal certainly didn’t do it any harm in getting me to purchase it. Was it worth it? Oh yeah, very much worth every single one of those 99 pennies — and then some.
Although listed as fantasy, don’t be expecting any wizards, elves or things magical, it isn’t that kind of fantasy. It’s the kind of fantasy of a completely different place with big walled cities that keep those in power nice and secure and those not in power kept well out of it, well away and firmly under the boot heel. Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City is very much the story of the downtrodden of this world, a world ruled by people with dark blue skin, the Robur, where people with lighter skin are oppressed.
Telling this story is the colonel in charge of the Robur army’s engineers, Orhan, who, much to the chagrin of the Robur, just happens to be one of those light skinned “Milkface” types who only got the job through pure luck and because he’s very good at building bridges and fiddling the regimental accounts.
And this is the story of how Orhan suddenly finds himself in charge of defending a walled city against hoards of other pale skinned, Milkface savages on behalf of his Robur rulers.
From the very beginning one can’t help but really like Orhan. He has a very amusing, sarastic world view fuelled by an intelligence fitting with being a military engineer, and is certainly one of the most enjoyable narrators of any story i can think of from recent memory.
As an ex army engineer myself i really got into Orhan’s attitude to it all: shouldn’t the real soldiers be doing all this horrible nasty fighting and killing stuff while we just fix and build things?
This was my first K. J. Parker/Tom Holt book and i’m certainly going to be reading more books from him. Great style, great editing, great characters, great all round writing.
And i just found there’s a follow-up to this wonderful yarn: How To Rule An Empire and Get Away With It