I received an uncorrected bound proof copy of The Gutter Prayer in exchange for an honest review. I would like to thank Gareth Hanrahan and Orbit Books for the opportunity.
Hanrahan’s highly anticipated fantasy debut is a real breath of fresh air. We follow three thieves who are affiliated with the underground Brotherhood. The gang’s leader – Henreil – orders Carillon, Spar and Rat to steal some documentation from the House of Law. Little did the ensemble know that the master of the thieves guild had other plans that evening involving this building and another group of thieves. The three thieves are betrayed, the House of Law – one of the cities finest monuments – burns to the ground, and the consequences are dire. In the aftermath, our trio decides to deal out revenge but in doing so uncover numerous conspiracies, dark truths, and learn often unwanted knowledge about the Gods of this world. Mixing that with visions, hallucinations, and out-of-body experiences that Carillion starts witnessing and Spar’s need for a drug Alkahest as he is slowly petrifying since being diagnosed with the stone plague equals an exciting and ambitious prospect from the very start.
At approximately 510 pages Hanrahan composes a unique, stimulating and three-dimensional hauntingly dark fantasy world. The Gutter Prayer is low fantasy at it’s finest. I’m not sure if it was the author’s intention yet I read this as if it was set in a Victorian-inspired city where all of the action takes place. The complex, labyrinthine city of Guerdon includes trains, canals, main roads, thieves passages, underground warrens, a university town and many houses of religion.
In a fantasy world where grimdark seems to be the most popular sub-genre at the moment, I can confirm that fans of the said genre will find a great amount to enjoy here. That being said, it doesn’t fit exactly under that specification. For however dark, extreme and violent sections may be, The Gutter Prayer also oozes an aura of heart and hope mainly led by the three intriguing and intricately developed but likable main characters. Cari is a thief who is the daughter of a wealthy family and has started having unspeakably strange visions when bells ring. Rat is a Ghoul, that is like a concoction of a human and a wolf and finally, Spar is the son of the former master of the thieves guild who is infected by the stone-plague. The team have an amazing comradeship and really care for each other and that is present throughout the whole narrative.
I adore fantasy stories that flaunt originality, especially when the author creates new creatures, races, and Gods that have not been featured in other books beforehand. Like Malazan where Erikson created Tiste Andii, K’Chain Che’Malle amongst others – here we have Tallowmen, Gullheads, Ravellers, and Saints. Three of these creatures are utterly terrifying and you wouldn’t want to cross their paths in the small damp alleyways of Guerdon at nighttime.
One of my favourite aspect of The Gutter Prayer was the way that Cari’s out-of-body experiences and visions were written. Unfortunately, in the past, I’ve suffered from mental health, hallucinations, visions, and out-of-body experience and Cari’s experiences rang completely true and where presented brilliantly. I had a personal connection with these segments and it was like reading about someone who has felt the same sort of emotions I had previously. Her suffering, confusion but also the way her eyes are opened to hidden details about the city and its inhabitants were really enlightening.
It took me about one-hundred-pages to get completely engrossed in this novel but at that point when events start to get a bit more complex I was engrossed and couldn’t put the book down. The last one-hundred-and-fifty-page were so thrilling that my brain had to work expertly hard to keep up with the pace that my eyes were making it read the words! The Gutter Prayer features a skilfully crafted world, with masterful drama, expert dialogue, brilliant characters, and an ending I did not see coming. The best debut release of 2019? Perhaps. A book that every fantasy fan should read? Absolutely.