The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan

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 like a lot of the books I read, but The Gutter Prayer is one of the few that I can say I actually loved.

It’s almost hard to put it into words. I want to rant, I want to squee, and I want to just spew out superlatives until you go ahead and pre-order the damned thing just to shut me the hell up. 

I’ve tried to describe to my friends just how great it is, and I feel like I owe them an apology for some of the manic nonsense that they had to listen to. This book is so good that it reduced me to a blithering, complimentary mess. I was enjoying myself from literally the first page — the prologue is truly incredible — and honestly the most accurate metaphor I can think of to describe the reading experience is that it was like a really really good night out with good friends and better alcohol. In other words, I enjoyed myself for the duration, but spent half the time worrying about the hangover that would come after.

The Gutter Prayer is a crazy, high-concept epic fantasy with an emphasis on the “crazy”. There’s alchemy, ghouls, stone men, saints with god-like powers, creepy candle-wax golems, and creepier sorcerers made from writhing masses of worms. There’s so many more aspects of this world (So. Many) that I could gush about, but it’s really the kind of thing that’s best read with as few preconceptions as possible. Just know that the worldbuilding is truly incredible. It’s like… well, it’s like nothing else I’ve ever read before. Perhaps it’s like a more stylised, serious, and contained version of Nicholas Eames’ Kings of the Wyld, but that comparison doesn’t do justice to either book. The Gutter Prayer is entirely its own thing, and it’s brilliant for it.

Coming back to that “stylised” comment —I refuse to believe that this is a debut novel. It is far too well written. In fact, at one point I put the book down mid-paragraph (okay, I exaggerate, I read until the end of the chapter and even then it was hard to tear my eyes away) to check the author’s credentials. Turns out that Gareth Hanrahan has been writing for role-playing games for a number of years, but that The Gutter Prayer is indeed his debut novel. 

Well. If he’s this good out of the gate, then he’s earned himself a fan for life.

Character-wise, there’s a lot to like about the Gutter Prayer. The three thieves mentioned in the blurb are our “main” point-of-view characters, but we also get a few chapters from other perspectives. The character exploration isn’t the slow and deep introspective kind, but more the kind that rolls with the story. You start off knowing next to nothing about the characters and the world, but you learn through context and drip-fed details as you read on. There’s a sizeable cast of personalities here, and it’s a mark of a multi-point-of-view fantasy done well that I didn’t mind when the perspective changed. All of the characters were interesting, all of them engaging. In that sense and others, this book was a unicorn in my eyes.

In terms of the story… yeah, I’m not telling you anything. Trust me when I say that it’s a book best read with as little pre-existing knowledge as possible. What I will say is that this is remarkably well contained for what is apparently book 1 in a series. If you want to read this as a standalone, then you wouldn’t be disappointed. 

The Gutter Prayer is already one of my favourite books from 2019. It’s original, incredibly well-written, and honestly just so much fun to read.

This is for anyone who likes crazy worlds, colourful and roguish characters, and exciting action sequences. It’s the battlecry of an exciting new author who I feel has the potential to hit the very top of the genre. 

Put simply, you need to read this.

The Gutter Prayer releases on January 15th 2019

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Orbit UK for providing the review copy!


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