The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan

39836383Publication Date: 17 January 2019
Publisher: Orbit
Format: eBook, ARC
Pages: 544
Word Count: ~160,000
ISBN: 0356511529

Summary: 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.

*****

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: 

Before I talk about the book itself, can we just take a moment to appreciate the beauty of this cover? It’s seriously a work of art and I’m going to shamelessly say that the cover was the reason this book caught my eye in the first place. Done admiring the cover? Great! Now let’s talk about how amazing the actual book is because damn this book was phenomenal.

For me, what stood out the most was the unique, biopunk horror-esque world. A common complaint I see with fantasy readers is the overuse of standard Tolkein races (elves, dwarves, dragons, hobbits/halflings, etc) and the lack of ‘new’ races. If this describes you, then this book is definitely for you. Between the Tallowmen, creatures of candle wax created by Alchemy, the Crawling Ones, large collections of sapient worms in a trenchcoat, ghouls with their twisted path of evolution, and Stone Men, humans who are slowly calcifying to living statues, Hanrahan brings to life some of the most imaginative and grotesque creatures I have ever read.

Hanrahan also does a fantastic job bringing the city of Guerdon alive with it’s rich and much-buried history. Much like a city develops layers of history over time, I felt like I was unraveling those layers as I read and as our main characters dug deeper to find answers to their questions. Central to this story are gods. Gods worshipped and forgotten, brought to the city by waves of immigrants and discarded over time as new beliefs come in. It’s hard to say more without giving away plot points and The Gutter Prayer is definitely a book you want to go in blind.

Character-wise, I thought the book did very well. Each of the three main characters, Cari, Rat, and Spar, are quicky introduced through a failed heist and we watch the three deal with unintended consequences in their own ways. Each of them face their own struggles and work with their own factions, and through the three of them, we get to explore so much of the depth of Guerdon. The cast of secondary characters, a badass old woman employed by the Church of the Keepers, a gruff detective who suffers PTSD from a previous war, the entire thieves guild and their political struggle,s and more are all fantastic and very well fleshed out as well

As I mentioned earlier, you probably want to go into this book blind. Plot-wise, it’s definitely one of those books whose plot isn’t quite apparent from the get-go. That’s not to say there’s not plot happening, but it definitely takes a while for all the big reveals to occur and for the characters to discover exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. The prose and the writing style Hanrahan uses is equal parts beautifully descriptive and incredibly eerie. That being said, this book definitely deserves warnings for body horror and viscerally descriptive language. For those of you who are squeamish, proceed with caution.

As I read, one thing I noticed was the lack of sex and sexually derogative language, especially towards women. It’s something I’ve become accustomed to reading in fantasy novels, especially ones with this kind of dark gritty setting. I think I was about halfway, where I felt like something seemed off, but in a good way, that I noticed I hadn’t seen a single character make a passing comment about a women’s breasts or see reference to prostitutes or a brothel. And, it was nice?? Like, I’ve gotten so used to reading this language that a lack thereof was odd. But in a good way??? All the kudos to the author for making this choice. On the other hand, the complete lack of anything remotely sexual does make the two brief sex scenes seem a little out of place.

Overall, I rate this book a 5/5. This book is highly recommended to anyone looking for a unique dark fantasy novel with fantastic worldbuilding and characters. The Gutter Prayer is an amazing debut novel and I can’t wait to see what else the author has in store.

/r/Fantasy Bingo 2018 Squares

  • Novel Featuring a God as a Character

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