Series: The Black Iron Legacy
Author Info: http://garhanrahan.wordpress.com/
This book has been all the rage in the grimdark community and rightly so. I read it a few weeks ago but was not able to post the review until now due to my swamped schedule and low mental energy level.
The Gutter Prayer is a very strong debut and doesn’t even read like one. You can tell the author is quite experienced in worldbuilding and action-heavy plots even if you didn’t know he has a professional background as a game writer.
The setting is a city with a Lovecraftian and steampunkish aura to it, inhabited with the normal people and bizarre city guard creatures called Tallowmen (lovingly called candle-fuckers by the people) on the surface, ghouls and weird ass creatures living underground in the vast network of tunnels and huge caverns. There’s the industries of the alchemists with their polluting chimneys and toxic dumps, huge cathedrals, university complex and all kinds of cool places in the city of Guerdon. The city is quite intriguing and full of surprises. The criminal underground and the machinations its leaders plot, the actual underground and its entirely different culture and hierarchies keep the feeling of adventure and exploring alive throughout the whole book.
The strength of this book is not the characters, but rather the worldbuilding, plot, mystery solving and fast-paced action.
There’s a small but eclectic cast of main characters. The protag figure is Carillion (Cari) who was cool in the beginning but grew dull. Professor Ongent, Rat the Ghoul and the thief taker Jere are the most interesting characters in my opinion. Then again you don’t read this book for character porn. (Malazan is where you go for character porn.) The multi-layered, Lovecraftian-steampunkish-weird city and its messed up theology, strange lore, way-out-there creatures, political intrigue and awesome action is what The Gutter Prayer is offering in generous quantities. It’s like a playing a fine game of Arkham Horror but with mystery and puzzle-solving elements.
The one thing I wasn’t impressed with was the big twist in the end cause I have seen the exact same kind of thing elsewhere (not going to say where cause it’d be a spoiler to those who read that one.) But then the whole aftermath with the new city was bizarre, original and super cool. The ending is weird like the rest of the story and all that weirdness works out in a great harmony until the last page.
Overall The Gutter Prayer is a great read with lots of original and entertaining elements and fast-paced thriller aspect.