The Gutter Prayer
by Gareth Hanrahan
Published January 2019
Wow. So. Where to start. The Gutter Prayer is definitely epic fantasy, which I haven’t been reading much of lately as I didn’t think I had time. Epic Fantasy is usually big books in long series – and this book could stand completely on its own, though the author says there will be at least one more book.
The Gutter Prayer also does something that I’ve always enjoyed but is somewhat uncommon – the city ITSELF is very much a character here. I attended a panel at last year’s Baltimore Book Festival that talked about Cities as characters which, while not something I’d explicitly realized I liked, was a common thread in a lot of high fantasy/science fiction that I’ve loved. City of Brass and The Courier are good examples. So that was a selling point of The Gutter Prayer.
The book starts with a bang – literally – as the three main characters, Cari, a human thief, Rat, a ghoul, and Spar, a “Rock Man,” are robbing a building when it explodes. (Rock Men are humans who suffer from a magical disease that slowly petrifies them but makes them inhumanly strong.) The action doesn’t let up much, from Rat sneaking through the underbelly of the city, to Spar fighting for his life against his voracious disease while trying to unite the lowlifes of the city, to Cari trying to figure out where her weird visions are coming from. We bounce from monsters kept captive in the deeps, guarded by other monsters, to city politics, to wars between gods on distant shores and closer to home.
The city is central to all of it, hiding secrets and labyrinths and ancient gods and alchemical workshops that spew horrors of their own. The prologue chapter even seems to be from the perspective of the city itself, as if watching our heroes crawl around its streets from above.
For all the action, the writing felt a little slow – as if it wasn’t quite conveying the urgency with which things were happening. The actual events were quite fast-paced, I just think the language could have been more…I’m not sure. Intense, maybe? It didn’t suck me in as much as I would have expected. It didn’t quite come to life on the page. I’m absolutely going to read the next book, when it comes out; writing styles generally improve in the second book, in my experience reading trilogies.
From the cover of The Gutter Prayer:
ENTER A CITY OF SAINTS AND THIEVES . . .
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.