Review: The Gutter Prayer

TheGutterPrayerTitle: The Gutter Prayer (2019)
Author: Gareth Hanrahan
Pages: 512
Series: The Black Iron Legacy #1 (Series Tracker)


A ghoul named Rat, a man degenerating into stone, and an orphan thief with a mysterious gift work together to uncover a dark conspiracy in an ancient city filled with tunnels, monsters, and dangerous gods.

Author Gareth Hanrahan has built an undeniably cool world that crackles with dark energy. The monsters that patrol and infest the city of Guerdon are human enough to be comprehensible, but grotesque enough to be creepy and unnerving. The architecture of the city itself is imaginative and fun to explore, with layers upon layers built atop the haunted past they’ve tried to bury.

I had a difficult time connecting with Hanrahan’s writing style, which felt a bit stiff and difficult to lose myself in. The book never sucked me in the way I wanted it to, but the concept and tone were enticing enough to keep me going. I’ll be intrigued to see where the sequel goes after The Gutter Prayer’s game-changing final act.

★★★¼ out of 5

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Review: Kings of Paradise

KingsofParadiseTitle: Kings of Paradise (2017)
Author: Richard Nell
Pages: 601
Series: Ash and Sand #1 (Series Tracker)


This was a solid dark fantasy. The characters and setting are well-drawn and the writing is quite good. I connected with some POV characters more than others and this meant that there were long stretches where I was disengaged from the story as I just tried to get through the POV chapters I enjoyed less. I’m undecided as to whether I’ll pick up the next book in the series, but I had a good time with this one.

★★★½ out of 5

Review: Aching God

DaVQZiHW0AALaj8Title: Aching God (2018)
Author: Mike Shel
Pages: 598
Series: Iconoclasts #1 (Series Tracker)


Aching God appeared on my radar after seeing several glowing reviews on the r/fantasy subreddit. Now, I don’t always connect with books that r/fantasy fawns over, but this was certainly not the case with Aching God, which is a thoroughly engrossing debut novel that I enjoyed immensely.

The book follows Auric Manteo, a retired mercenary, of sorts, who leads an expedition to return a cursed gem to the haunted temple from whence it came. It’s a straightforward story, but told in expert fashion. The writing is superb, which is not always a given in self-published fare. When a character referred to something as an “ensorcelled receptacle,” I knew that this was the right book for me. I expected a fairly simplistic dungeon quest tale, but it’s really so much more than that. Author Mike Shel has built out the world of Hanifax in rich detail and explores a great deal of the map with compelling encounters and fully-formed characters.

This is for anyone who enjoys dark fantasy and a well-told story. It’s certainly one of my favorite books of 2018 and I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment in the series, as Aching God builds a very solid foundation from which to jump off from. It feels like sword and sorcery Indiana Jones — and I’m very here for that.

★★★★¼ out of 5