- The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy #1).
- Gareth Hanrahan.
- 544 pages.
- Fantasy / Grimdark / Dark Fantasy / Fiction.
- My Rating: Hell Yeah Book Review.
The city of Guerdon stands eternal. A refuge from the war that rages beyond its borders. But in the ancient tunnels deep beneath its streets, a malevolent power has begun to stir.
The fate of the city rests in the hands of three thieves. They alone stand against the coming darkness. As conspiracies unfold and secrets are revealed, their friendship will be tested to the limit. If they fail, all will be lost and the streets of Guerdon will run with blood.
I received a free copy of this book courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Gutter Prayer, is (in my humble opinion) a grimdark must-read, a beautifully crafted, highly entertaining and gloriously twisted delight that lovers of dark fantasy will devour. Add in that it’s a debut, it’s only the first book so more (luckily) to come and in Hanrahan, the creative genius behind it all you have an author to watch out for and, in The Gutter Prayer itself a book that is something very special in your hands. I feel that The Gutter Prayer will be one of the most inventive fantasy books released this year and that come to the end of 2019 that it will be firmly placed on both many top fantasy books of the year lists and many top fantasy debuts of the year lists too, it is that good.
Cari, Rat and Spar, a trio of thieves are tasked by Heinreil, the master of the Thieves Brotherhood in Guerdon to take part in a heist. Unbeknownst to them, treachery was at play and they were simply a distraction to mask the real purpose of the night’s events. The heist goes wrong turning into an utter FUBAR mess and chaos and mayhem soon erupt across (both above and below) the streets of Guerdon. The Black Iron Gods and their servants, an ancient evil from times past start rising from the depths. Stirring once more to life intent on reclaiming their power with devastating consequences that will affect everyone in the city of Guerdon and beyond.
The story told by Hanrahan is utterly fantastic, returning old God’s, magic, political machinations, an ever-encroaching war and it is one that you will want to unravel for yourself.
The three main characters are, Carillon/Cari who is a human female and recent refugee to the city. Rat, a flesh-eating ghoul (Hanharan has created a fantastic hierarchy for the ghouls) who stays on the surface rather than in the underground with his fellow ghouls and Spar, a Stone Man (the stone plague swept through Guerdon some thirty years previous). Spar is human but is slowly turning to stone, calcifying from the outside, in and he has to use alkahest (a drug injected between the stone plates) to keep the symptoms of the disease at bay.
There are many tremendous secondary characters on display in The Gutter Prayer too including, amongst others, Jere, a thief-taker (bounty hunter), Professor Ongent, a University lecturer in the history and archaeology of Guerdon and my own personal favourite Aleena who is a spunky, blunt and foul-mouthed warrior Saint from the church of the keepers complete with flaming sword.
All of the characters, regardless of whether they are main or secondary are well-developed, unique and distinctive with their own personalities and different qualities.
The world-building and Hanrahan’s creations are both brilliant. When I read Blackwing by Ed McDonald back in 2017 I remember being creeped out and disturbed by his nightmarish creations of Darlings, Drudge and Gillings and in awe at his imagination. I had that same feeling of being creeped out and disturbed and the feeling of awe at the imagination on display when reading about the Tallowmnen, Ravellers and Crawling Ones that Hanrahan has created and included in The Gutter Prayer.
You have the Tallowmen who patrol the streets of Guerdon and are made of wax. They are created by the Alchemists and made from humans put in vats, rendered down and stretched. They are creepy as fuck! Then you have the Gullheads (which we don’t see much of, maybe in book two) another alchemist creation featuring a humanoid body, a bird head and feathers. There’s also, Ravellers, a monstrous creature from the past, thought lost to history, a shapeless being that unravels its prey, consuming them and taking their shape. Perhaps worst of all from the eldritch menagerie of horrors on display in The Gutter Prayer are the Crawling Ones. Like the ghouls, they are denizens of the underground. Consisting of masses of pulsating sorcerous worms that can form the shape of a human. They eat dead flesh to consume the memories of those that they have eaten. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention The Fever Knight too, the bodyguard to Heinreil who is yet another terrifying and monstrous creation.
The Godswar is raging across the land but it is yet to reach Guerdon and the city remains neutral and impartial. Selling alchemical weapons to all sides and taking in refugees but there are more and more flooding into Guerdon as The Godswar is getting nearer.
Guerdon is a city on the edge, it is reaching a precipice, history repeats and it feels like Guerdon is once again ready for change. Guerdon is a city that is steeped in a festering history with more below than above. Over time everything crumbles to dust and the city has been built on and rebuilt on countless times using foundations of the past to fashion the present. It is festooned with tunnels and warrens beneath the streets that go down for miles hiding many a forgotten secret and many a horror that should remain buried and lost to the past. It is a living, breathing fetid hellhole of a city that is full of different districts and one that is populated by a whole array of unsavoury characters that comes to grimy life in the hands of Hanrahan.
There’s a lot to like in The Gutter Prayer and I’m shocked that it is a debut. As a book, it is so complete and the writing so assured that you would think that Hanrahan had been writing books for years. The quality of The Gutter Prayer is perhaps not surprising when you consider that the publisher is Orbit and the pedigree of other Orbit debuts in recent years namely Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames and Age of Assassins by R. J. Barker.
The Gutter Prayer is a cauldron of creativity. It is batshit crazy, it is brilliant, it is demented and it is all fused together with grim goodness.
Purchase The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy #1).
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