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Thursday, January 10, 2019

The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan (Reviewed by Lukasz Przywoski)

Official Author Website
Order The Gutter Prayer over HERE

OFFICIAL AUTHOR INFORMATION: Gareth Hanrahan is a writer & game designer. Everything else, by induction. On twitter (and everywhere else) as @mytholder.

OFFICIAL BOOK BLURB: A group of three young thieves are pulled into a centuries old magical war between ancient beings, mages, and humanity in this wildly original debut epic fantasy.

The city has always been. The city must finally end.

When three thieves - an orphan, a ghoul, and a cursed man - are betrayed by the master of the thieves guild, their quest for revenge uncovers dark truths about their city and exposes a dangerous conspiracy, the seeds of which were sown long before they were born.Cari is a drifter whose past and future are darker than she can know.

Rat is a Ghoul, whose people haunt the city's underworld.

Spar is a Stone Man, subject to a terrible disease that is slowly petrifying his flesh.

Chance has brought them together, but their friendship could be all that stands in the way of total Armageddon

FORMAT/INFO: The Gutter Prayer is 544 pages long. This is the first volume of The Black Iron Legacy series. .The book will be published on January 17th 2019 by Orbit. Cover illustration is by Richard Anderson and cover design is done by Steve Panton.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: How do I even describe it? Was it just insane or insanely good?

Enter Guerdon. Mad deities and divinely powered saints fight, Lovecraftian horrors awake and crawl out from below. Shape-shifting Ravellers, servants of the ancient and evil Black Iron Gods, bring mayhem to the streets for the first time in decades and it can only mean one thing - Doomsday approaches.

Meanwhile, a new member of the Thieves’ Brotherhood, Carillon Thay, experiences unnerving visions that place her in the centre of the conflict between mad deities. She navigates the city in the company of Rat, a corpse-eating ghoul, and Spar, a Stoneman, whose flesh is slowly calcifying into rock.

Rules mean nothing to Hanrahan - he plays with the language, world-building, and usual genre’s tropes. He twists them and offers something fresh and new. Examples? Gutter Prayer opens with a prologue written in the second person pro-noun, a thing considered a huge no-no. And yet, it works. Hanrahan’s lyrical prose contains a lot of archaisms and rare words, it yells for a reader's attention and yet it only makes the experience more immersive. His visual and visceral style blew my mind. I usually dislike detailed world-building, but his world, with all its minutiae, immersed me.

A note to aspiring writers - don’t read this book; it‘ll make you loathe your unimaginative, bland phrases.

The setting lives from the very first pages. It feels real, and dynamic. It changes and affects the characters in the story. It‘s a prime example of a powerfully portrayed city that seems to have a life of its own. I sincerely hope I’ll never visit Guerdom, though. I still have a long TBR list and things to do in life and I wouldn’t last five minutes there. Check this description of one of the city’s hidden places (it gives a good example of the setting and Hanrahan’s prose):

Pipes hiss and gurgle like the intestines of a flayed man. The air is hot and thick with fumes. Through portholes lined with green-tinted glass, she can spy on the things growing inside the vats - embryonic Gullheads, raptequines, disembodied organs. A thing that might be the heart and circulatory system of a man swims past one viewport, like a ghastly jellyfish that squirts blood with every spasm of its artery limbs.

All characters feel realized and three dimensional. Carillon is impulsive, and she acts too fast regularly getting into trouble. Her emotionally charged chapters contrast slightly with other POV’s. although each POV character faces traumatic situations. Take Spar, a Stoneman. He’s dying. His disease will win in the end - there’s no cure. He’ll turn into a stone, but not before he experiences all his joints and organs calcify slowly and painfully. Then we have Rat - a young ghoul who experiences extreme, nauseating transformation.

Secondary characters shine as well. A lovely mentor who’s secretly a manipulative monster, a teleporting boy with insane speed and agility, tallowmen whose minds are a flickering candle flames, burning within the waxy hollow of their skulls captured my imagination. That said, the character I liked most was Aleena - a brutally honest saint who swears like a trooper in an angelic voice (literally - angels speak through her). Hanrahan’s saints don’t resemble our saints in the least. They’re deeply traumatized embodiments of divine madness.

CONCLUSION: I’m sure people will speak about The Gutter Prayer in the years to come. I suspect it’ll divide the audience a bit. A casual fantasy reader may feel lost in the plot for a significant part of the book. Hanrahan’s distinct, rich writing style won’t appeal to everyone. But it did work for me. A brilliant, imaginative debut. Absolutely worth the read and insanely, uniquely rich in every way.



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