The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy, #1)by Published 15 Jan 2019
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The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy, #1) Ebook Description
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In the ancient city of Guerdon, three thieves - an orphan, a ghoul and a cursed man - are accused of a crime they didn't commit. Their quest for revenge exposes a perilous conspiracy, the seeds of which were sown long before they were born.
A centuries-old magical war is on the verge of reigniting and in the tunnels deep below the city, a malevolent power stirs. Only by standing together can the three friends prevent a conflict that would bring total devastation to their city - and the world beyond.
Set in a world of strange monsters, dark gods and dangerous magic, The Gutter Prayer is thrilling and visceral debut fantasy from an exciting new talent.
The Gutter Prayer (The Black Iron Legacy, #1) Reviews
It is a truth universally acknowledged that if a book centers around a motley band of criminals, I will not rest until I read it.
With his imaginative characters, creative plot and twisted creatures, Hanrahan proves that fantasy can still be original.
This is an exceedingly exciting adventure of thievery and treachery. It’s immediate and gripping. It doesn’t mess around and quickly launched me into an extraordinary new fantasy world. Hanrahan is an exceptionally talented writer, and I do not hesitate to say that this book will receive heaps of claim from readers and critics alike. It truly deserves it.
The story begins with an explosion, an explosion that ruins the heist the three protagonists, Cari, Spar and Rat were undertaking. They have no idea what has happened or why it has happened. They have been set up as the world descends into fire and chaotic madness. They have been left for dead and without any answers. It’s a sign of things to come, of the powerlessness they posses in a game where they are only considered as mere pawns. The plot only becomes darker as the world becomes richer and more vivid. There are secrets to be unearthed in the dark streets of Guerdon, and I was surprised on several occasions with the direction this took.
I don’t want to give anything away but let me say that this book contains some of coolest creatures I have read about in years. The Tallowmen are wax contructs made to resemble men and created by mages to carry out their bidding. And they are quite terrifying. They are such a great idea. Fantasy novels that depict new and interesting creatures, that are completely original, are always worthy of attention. Just think about it, how many original fantasy monsters are still being created? Not many, at times it all feels like the same regurgitated versions of the same thing.
So, I was delighted to read about new and interesting monsters that were accompanied by such successful and strong world building. This world is loaded with history, and it’s slowly revealed as the characters navigate its dark depths. It ticks all the boxes as the characters are also complicated and interesting individuals. Spar is plagued by a disease that will end in his ultimate demise as he slowly turns into stone, Rat is a ghoul that feeds off dead human flesh and Cari has a secret past that threatens to topple everything she is. And the dynamic between the three is electric.
Hanrahan is a strong new voice in fantasy, one that will resonate very loudly with fans of Scott Lynch. Both writers have a keen eye for detail when conjuring up their respective worlds, and they both know how to create complex plots that go in unexpected directions. They both write about thieves and cut-throats in a grimdark fantasy setting, so if you like The Lies of Locke Lamora then The Gutter prayer is certainly the book for you. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
There are simply not enough books that focus on thieves in fantasy, and this helps to fill the gap tremendously - A very strong 9/10
‘Rat chuckles. “THERE WILL BE A WAR, OH YES.”
“Marvellous.” The Sword catches fire. “I don’t know what I’d fucking do with peace,” says the saint.’
The Gutter Prayer is the first instalment in the Black Iron Legacy series by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan. This debut novel is a an enthralling ride, filled with truly exceptional world building, and unique characters. You may have seen the hype around this book, well folks, the hype is well deserved.
It is hard for me to give you a brief outline of what the book entails, because the story frankly put, is immense. So, I’ll just say that the story opens with our three main characters; Cari, Spar and Rat, who are thieves on a job. Yet this is not merely a heist story, as things go disastrously wrong for our protagonists, they are all pulled into a tale of betrayal, revenge, and an age old god war that is threatening to climax.
Initially I was concerned, although the plot hooked me, I felt as if we were thrust into the middle of things, and I couldn’t grasp where the story was heading and how everything connected; which made the pace feel too slow. Patience here really did pay off though, because halfway through things started to make more sense, connections started to fall into place, and the pace became one hell of a rollercoaster. I really appreciated the intricacy that Hanrahan put into this, because it is so well written. The third person present tense was easy to flow into once you got used to it, and i felt it worked brilliantly to keep the action feeling immediate and tense. Especially in the last 100 pages, which I adored so much. Hanrahan also made me realise that sometimes it’s nice to read a book that keeps you theorising everything, rather than having it all spelt out for you from the onset.
Now let me talk about my favourite aspects of The Gutter Prayer - the world building and the characters. As I mentioned, there are some unusual characters in this book, which simply put, I loved! Cari was an orphaned girl with a dark legacy, and so it seemed a dark future too. Rat was a ghoul, his race lived underground and fed off the cities dead from corpse shafts. Rat tried to spend as little time underground as he could, for fear of turning feral. He was one of those characters that really appealed to my dark sense of humour! I loved how he had to stop himself from killing everyone and battle his strong urge to eat them all!
Then there was Spar, a Stone Man, afflicted by an incurable debilitating plague, that was slowly turning his flesh into stone. Gah, Spar was just... everything. His suffering, his loyalty, and the love he had for his friends, was just so charming. Each chapter always compelled me to find out more about all three of them.
‘He takes the pain of jealousy and loss and cherishes it as he walks; his heart, at least, has not turned to stone.’
The world building in this book was INCREDIBLE! There was just... so much! The book is set in the city of Guerdon; a dangerous place that inhabited a myriad of dark, gruesome , and grotesque creatures birthed from the Alchemist’s Guild. Some of these included, Tarrowmen, Ravellers, Elder ghouls, a Fever Knight, and Crawling Ones. It has been a long time since I’ve read something that creeped me out, but the Crawling Ones, well, they made my skin crawl! I really enjoyed the inclusion of horror elements here. Thank you Hanrahan, not only did you make the city come vividly alive off the page for me, you also made my monster loving heart so happy! 👏🏽👏🏽
For those of you who like your fantasy dark, that want an array of monsters and intricate world building, and that want a novel that solidly ends with a bang, then I highly recommend this book.
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. This was recommended to me by Grimdark author and general legend Michael R. Fletcher.
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-dimension 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 night time.
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 experiences 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 eye-opening and 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. Debut release of 2019? Perhaps. A book that every fantasy fan should read? Absolutely.
This book wasn’t initially on my radar, but the people over at Fantasy Inn really enjoyed it and talked about it a lot. Then I saw some other friends with similar taste start to rave about this book over on Goodreads so I decided to give it a go.
I was very taken aback by the use of second-person narration in the prologue, I don’t typically click with that writing style, but strangely enough, I was sad when it ended. After just a few paragraphs, I had sunk into the prose and didn’t want it to end, I was blown away right from the beginning by the imagination used in this book. This was the first of many “exceptions” this book had in store for me, this broke all of the rules I have for my own taste – or thought I had, anyway.
This starts out with a robbery gone wrong, three thieves are tasked by their leader to bring something out of a vault in the Tower of Law. They make their way through the building checking every room looking for something that they can’t find. By no fault of their own, something in the building explodes, spreading alchemical fire throughout the tower which eventually brings it down. All of the noise and commotion alerts the guards, both of the Tallowman and human variety. The three thieves are chased down through the city, one, the ghoul named Rat gets away. The other two of the thieves, Cari and Spar, get arrested and are hauled off to a flooded prison located on an island.
Cari is a young girl who’s run away from home and become a thief, she’s quick and light on her feet which is handy for her trade. After being put in prison Cari is bailed out by a professor, Ongent, an archeologist and historian at the University. It’s not said at first why he did this, but he clearly had a purpose and intent. Cari has been having dreams lately that aren’t just dreams. While asleep she mumbled her way through the origins of the ghoul race in some kind of trance. She’s had a vision of a young priest who was melted away by some unknown force, a being that disguised itself as a woman interested in him only to ambush and kill him once she got him alone. Ongent doesn’t know what to make of it yet, but Cari is clearly special. She also has bravery about her and not just the ‘fighting’ kind of bravery, she lives with the Stone Man thief which most people wouldn’t do even if it was a family member. Stone Men suffer from a plague that started about 30 years ago turning their bodies into statues and acting as a slow death sentence. People afflicted with the disease have to keep moving or their bodies will calcify more quickly, in this world a good night’s sleep could result in you waking up paralyzed and near death.
Rat is a young ghoul, and as such he lives mostly underground in the dark damp caves and tunnels that number in the thousands below the city. He thinks of his kind as the true inhabitants of the city, with the people on top being like “flies” skittering only on the surface. His race is an ancient one that has three distinct life phases. Young ghouls can pass for human in low light, despite the fact they have hooves they are relatively human shaped and can communicate, they can also tolerate sunlight for short periods of time and are able to control their more basal instincts. Middle-aged ghouls tend are mostly feral, communicating only in howls and screams, living in swarms deep below the earth. Then there are the Elders, ancient beings of unimaginable power that hijack the bodies of others to speak for them. (Independence day shit). When rat was being chased by a Tallowman through the city he made it into his caves, where he ran into a woman named Aleena. She works for the Church of the Keepers on the surface and the Church has maintained a tenuous agreement between themselves and the ghouls for thousands of years. Something has brought her down to the depths searching for the Elders, something urgent. It takes hours to get down through the dark with tunnels made of the deepest blacks, so black that even Rat is unnerved. When they reach the Elders there’s an exchange with Aleena that Rat didn’t fully understand, however, he does know that the Elders are scared, what horrors could possibly scare the Elders? Who are these Ravellers that are supposed to be kept at bay? And could it have anything to do with Cari’s visions of a man unraveling before her eyes?
The characters stood out to me right away, which was exception number two this book threw at me. I usually take a while to warm up to characters, and since I know that I don’t let it bother me if I’m not connecting right at the beginning. I’m only irked if I don’t get to know them well enough before I switch POV’s, preferring to sink my teeth into a character before it switches. Again, this book makes an exception. I loved switching from character to character even right at the beginning. They were all so unique with clear, distinct voices and personalities that it was easy to go back and forth while enjoying myself every time the character changed. I loved the side characters as well, which is a huge plus. When side characters feel bland or boring it makes the world a little less polished and real. Aleena was fucking fantastic, I don’t think anyone who knows me would be surprised by my love for this character. Sassy older woman that curses like a sailor? Just, yes. Take all of my yes.
I’m a big fan of originality, (hence why it gets its own category in my scoring system) and since I read about 200 books a year when I hit something I haven’t seen done before I can’t help but get extra excited. Typically when I call a book unique I’m referring to something like a new magic system, a trope turned on its head, a new aspect of world building I hadn’t seen before, or maybe a particularly unusual POV. In this book I’m referring to all of the above, every aspect of this book was something new and different. The ‘monsters’ are original – my two favorites in this one are the Tallowmen, men made of wax and burning from within, they make for extremely surreal foes and we even get to see inside one of their heads as a POV for a short time. I loved it. There are also things known as the Crawling Ones, a huge group of worms that’s sentient and feeds on the dead, except when they eat the dead they also steal their memories, knowledge, and souls.
The writing in this was great, it flowed very nicely for me and kept me turning pages. I would say this is much more stylized than what I typically read, however, I absolutely adored it. Kind of like Bancroft, I just love the way this was done and thought it was gorgeous. The world building is absolutely incredible and worked hand in hand with the characters for me. Sometimes when I get hit in the head with too much world building and don’t get to know the characters enough I lose interest. This had a great deal of world building that helped you understand the characters so it was an even flow of new info but also character development.
I am so stoked I’m ending my year on a string of amazing books. I can’t recommend this one highly enough to those that like darker fantasy in an entirely unique world. This was like falling for fantasy all over again.
non human pov
World Building: 15/15
Personal Enjoyment: 10/10
Final Score: 95/100 – 5 Stars, second highest rating of the year that’s not Pratchett.