The Gutter Prayer is the debut work by author Gareth Hanrhan. It is the first in an adult fantasy series called The Black Iron Legacy. It released on Jannuary 22nd, 2019 from Orbit Books in the US. I purchased a paperback copy for this review.
Content: Some intense fantastical violence and also regular violence, occasional swearing, sexual scenes and situations-mostly inferred, one short scene with the threat of sexual violence.
Even with the hype around this novel I didn’t know a great deal about it and I will maintain much of that naïveté for our readers as well. Something that did shock me about this book is how much the tone of this novel is more like The Lies of Locke Lamora than The Blade Itself. And while the stakes of this story firmly plant it in epic fantasy, the extremely likable young cast and confinentment to the city make for a very enjoyable read.
I think I left this story thinking as much about the city of Guerdon as I did its heroes. This place feels lived in and haunted by its secrets and its past–not to mention the walking nightmares that feed on the dead of the city. There are sorcerers and thieves. There are the frightful monsters that lurk in the sewers and the greedy ones that operate in the political sphere. There are dark alleys, shady taverns and hovels, docks for sailors and smugglers, an alchemical factory, churches, hideouts, mansions, and-lest we forget-the alchemists’ lightning quick servants made of wax.
And yet we never get too bogged down in city descriptions. This is most assuredly a character driven novel. Our three main POV characters have a worthwile arc. They are pretty low on the ladder of this society but yet they’re not so powerless as they first appear. And as they come to realize that power, they must also reckon with the cost and responsibly of wielding it or not- less they be as corrupted as those whose leadership and greed they chafe under. But it’s not just about their identity but their friendship also. Their connection to each other was probably the most important thread for me as a reader.
This character complexity gives the story meaning even as my imagination runs rampant based on what I know and don’t know about the world. I believe that’s a sign of great world building and character creation. I want to know what happens next to these characters but I can’t help to imagine what is happening, what has happened, and what could happen in this city and in this world given the things I know so far.
The Gutter Prayer is epic fantasy exquisitely confined. A city made and haunted by horrors past and present is the stage for truly loveable characters and a story that will change everything for all of them. Don’t miss this very entertaining and darkly imaginative debut.