The Gutter Prayer by Gareth Hanrahan:
Review by: Dani Long
I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The city of Guerdon is constantly evolving. Like the strata in rock formations, each phase the city has gone through is built on top of the one that came before it makes for a city with a vast and complex history that is written in its architecture.
Far away, the Godswar is being fought. As the name suggests, nations are fighting each other with a number of gods on every side. As the gods can’t be truly killed, only weakened, this leads to the human cities and populations paying devasting prices only for the fighting to continue on without an end in sight.
Guerdon has long maintained neutrality in this war. But evens unfolding within its walls could soon change that, bringing the horrific attentions of the Godswar to its doorsteps.
First off, and I cannot stress this enough, The Gutter Prayer has some of the most original, compelling, and captivating worldbuilding elements that I have seen in a long time. There is a fresh take on ghouls, which have never been a fantasy race I’ve been overly interested in, but now I want more ghouls, as well as some completely original creature creations such as the Tallowmen, the Stone Men, the Crawling Ones, and the Ravellers.
For the ghouls, Harahan introduced a whole ghoul hierarchy and history of how they came to be in Guerdon that I absolutely loved. Rat himself, the ghoul POV character, is a ghoul struggling with succumbing to his ghoul instincts while wanting to continue to be a part of the world aboveground.
One of the darkest things in this book to me though, and therefore one of the things that I truly loved the most, were the Stone Men.
A disease broke out about 20 years before the start of the story that turned a person’s flesh to stone. Contagious on skin contact, there was some mass hysteria for a while before the disease was brought under control but not before the creation of places like the Isle of Stone, an entire stone island containing men and women that were once human now dead and entombed in their own bodies. Beginning at the skin and slowly working its way inward, an afflicted person could live for years with this until they calcified to the point that they can no longer move and become trapped in the stone prison that was once their own body.
Oh and we can’t forget about the Crawling Ones…*shivers* That’s all I have to say about that.
As you can tell, I really loved this world. It had a rich history and dark atmosphere that I could not help but get sucked into.
The story itself was also engaging but it didn’t pull me in quite as much as the world. It begins with three thieves: Carillon, a human woman, Spar the Stone Man, and Rat the ghoul. Sent on a thieving mission by the head of the Thieves Guild, things go south fast for them, kicking off a series of events that uncovers a plot with worldwide, god-level consequences.
The story is told with several POVs and all of them are wound together very well and the ending is absolutely amazing. Still, something about it had me feeling a little bit removed from the story rather than fully immersed.
Even though I didn’t fall in love with the story as much as I wanted to, The Gutter Prayer is a must-read purely on the remarkable world that has been built between its pages. I think this book is going to go very far in 2019.