Book Review - THE GUTTER PRAYER by Gareth Hanrahan

(Title: The Gutter Prayer / Author: Gareth Hanrahan / Publisher: Orbit / Publication Date: January 17, 2019)

Way back in June of 2018 I came across a tweet showing this amazingly beautiful cover and touting an upcoming book release by author Gareth Hanrahan.  The name of the book was THE GUTTER PRAYER, the first book in The Black Iron Legacy series.  I was instantly drawn to it just from seeing the cover art alone.  I mean it was just stunningly beautiful.  I knew that it was a book that I would keep on my radar and as more information came trickling out about it from the publisher Orbit, I was even more convinced that I needed to check it out.  

Then the buzz began toward the beginning of the Fall as advance copies started circulating and it became almost an obsession to try and track the book down.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to snag an early copy but I did preorder the book as a backup and had it delivered to my Kindle on publication day.  I spent the better part of the past month reading this thoroughly engrossing fantasy story and came away from the experience more than rewarded for pegging this one very early on as a must-read.  And with that on to my review of THE GUTTER PRAYER.

The main action in the story takes place in the haunting and foreboding city of Guerdon.  Not much is known about the city at the beginning of the story, but what is alluded to is the existence of a war going on outside its borders.  Guerdon is depicted as a neutral territory of sorts that is profiting from selling sorcery-enhanced weapons to both sides of the conflict, thus reaping the financial benefits from each while also trying to hide their double-crossing activity from the other.  Meanwhile the setting of the city is one that is extremely dark, filled with underground labyrinths, catacombs, and all type of creatures who stalk its mysterious nooks and crannies.  It's a setting that is quite reminiscent of such dark fantasies as The Black Company by Glen Cook and The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson.  

Enter into this city the three main characters of the story: Cari or Carillion is a thief with a checkered past.  Her story is often interspersed with visions that allude to this past and slowly paint a picture of what she has experienced in her past life and will yet experience still.  Spar is a stone man who has been afflicted by a plague that is slowly petrifying his body to the point where he finds it extremely painful and difficult to move.   Rat is perhaps the most intriguing main character of the three.  He is what is known of as a ghoul, an animalistic and wild version of a human with almost wolf-like tendencies and behaviors.  Very disparate characters to be brought together, but that is also what makes this story so fascinating.  

The three are eventually recruited by the guild master of thieves named Henreil to embark on a mission to steal an important piece of history in document form from the city's House of Law.  Not knowing that Henreil actually has plans to betray them and only desires the three expendable pawns do his dirty work for him in creating a distraction for another nefarious purpose, something ultimately disastrous occurs while trying to claim the document.  The city is leveled, people are slaughtered, and the three are suddenly thrust into something that is now much larger than just a quick hit and run petty robbery.  Now Cari, Spar, and Rat are determined to get revenge on Henreil, but in doing so, they begin to uncover much about the city's dark past and about the gods who previously held sway in this dismal land where mysteries lie upon mysteries.  

What will be the ultimate fate of Guerdon remains entirely uncertain.  Even more, what exactly have the three thieves uncovered about the history of this place, and will it lead to the unleashing of something worse than the war raging around its borders?  So many questions are both posed and answered within the 500 or so pages of this complex and multi-layered fantasy story that you just absolutely have to read to discover.

This is the type of fantasy book that I love love love.  I am such a sucker for a setting that has a deep history layered with a ton of mystery as well.  I'm also enamored with world-building that involves multiple interesting cultures and creatures who live in said place.  Both of these boxes were instantly checked off for me.  THE GUTTER PRAYER had me hooked from the very beginning of the book when I was treated to a little taste of the city of Guerdon and its inhabitants.  As the story progressed much more was revealed about this rich world and we get to see the underbelly of the city, which is really where the thrills and action occur.  

There are underground passages, labyrinths, murky canals, and an entire society living underneath the population above ground.  All of these things have a greater history as to why they are there and learning about them and how they came about was half the fun of this incredible book.  Gareth Hanrahan has created an entirely original story that resonates with subtle hints of Scott Lynch, China Mieville, Glen Cook, and Steven Erikson.  All of those authors are among my favorites, so this was a dream read for me as it had that kind of feel while remaining very much its own world and story.  I can't say enough about this book other than if you don't read it, you are missing out on one of the best fantasy books you will ever read.  

This is a book where you savor every page and pay attention to every vivid detail of the characters and world.  I have to say that although the characters were interesting and diverse in their makeup and thinking, the world-building was where I was truly blown away.  And now that it's over I have to fight off the urge to start at page one and read it all over again.  I do have other books to review after all!  Pick up THE GUTTER PRAYER and do yourself a favor, read it soon if not immediately.  You will come away feeling like you've been transported to one of the most incredible fantasy settings ever dreamed of and put to paper.  And then you'll want to read it again.  Can't wait for book two!

(My Rating: 9/10)


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