Gutter Prayer Refresher

It’s been confirmed that there’s be a hardback edition of THE SHADOW SAINT from the lovely people at Goldsboro Books. I’ll be over in London in December to sign all 500 copies.

Also, the first major review of THE SHADOW SAINT popped up on Publisher’s Weekly.

The epic, surreal second volume in Hanrahan’s Black Iron Legacy series (following The Gutter Prayer) mixes diplomacy, espionage, and religion to excellent effect...  Hanrahan crafts a mind-blowingly complex world governed by capricious deities who actively alter reality. Series fans and new readers alike will delight entering this strange, immersive universe.

THE SHADOW SAINT is now available for request over on net galley, and there may be physical arcs in the wild before too long. It strikes me, therefore, that some readers may welcome a quick summary/reminder of the events of the first book. Below, you’ll find a short synopsis covering the key elements of The Gutter Prayer. Pretty much everything in the book gets spoiled below, so

Here are some fake spoilers

To save those who clicked unwisely

And to futz with search engines

It’s a novel about finding faith through drainage repair, like Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, only with more stabbing

It’s all a dream. A dream you’re having. ooh, meta.

Cari is made of chocolate

Spar’s revealed to be the Golem of Prague, on a really long holiday

Rat is Pickman’s Model, and the whole book is about his scandalous secret career as an artist’s model. Paint me like one of your Guerdon ghouls.

Genuine spoilers below. Last chance!

In the city of Guerdon, three thieves attempt to rob the Tower of Law. These thieves are:
* Cari, also known as Carillon Thay. She was the youngest child of the once-wealthy Thay family, and was sent away to live with her aunt Silva in the countryside shortly before the rest of the Thays were murdered, allegedly for debts owed. After many years wandering at sea, she’s returned to Guerdon. She was forced to rob the Tower of Law by Heinreil, the master of the Brotherhood of Thieves, who holds hostage an amulet given to Cari by her mother.
* Spar Idgeson, who suffers from the stone plague, a mysterious disease that slowly transmutes its victims to stone. The plague grants inhuman strength and resilience, but any injury hastens its progress. The alchemists of Guerdon make a medicine, alkahest, that can slow the disease. Spar’s a member of the Brotherhood of Thieves; in fact, his late father Idge was a former master, and was a significant figure in the Brotherhood’s history.
* Rat, a ghoul. The corpse-eating ghouls live beneath Guerdon, ruled over by cryptic elder ghouls.

The heist in the Tower of Law goes badly when the tower explodes (a second team of thieves attempted to blow open a treasure vault beneath it.). The bell of the tower nearly falls on Cari, and she and Spar are captured. Rat escapes, but is pursued by one of the city’s Tallowmen, waxy sentinels made from condemned criminals by the alchemist’s guild.

Cari and Spar end up in the custody of Jere Taphson, a thief-taker (private police, effectively). Jere’s in the employ of Effro Kelkin, former first minister of Guerdon and now head of the opposition in Parliament. Kelkin wants to bring Heinreil to justice to bolster his political prospects against the ruling alchemists. Jere focusses on Spar, using his reliance on alkahest to wear away at his resistance in the hopes he’ll turn Heinreil over. Kelkin also tasks Jere with investigating the bombing of the Tower of Law, which appears likely to be the start of a campaign of terror against the city.

While in Jere’s prison, Cari experiences several bizarre visions, and discovers that she’s somehow connected to the city’s bells – when they ring out, she attunes to some alien perspective. She also glimpses a hideous face-stealing creature, a Raveller, that pursues her.

She’s bailed out by a mysterious benefactor – Professor of History Aloysius Ongent. Professor Ongent takes her to his house, where she meets his son Miren and his assistant – who, in a remarkable co-incidence, turns out to be Cari’s bookish cousin Eladora. Cari notes that Eladora is infatuated with Miren. Ongent offers to help Cari discover the source of her visions, which he believes to be of divine origin. However, the Raveller attacks the house; Cari flees, Miren vanishes, and Ongent is arrested by the city watch.

Meanwhile, Rat is recruited by Saint Aleena, a saint of the Church of the Keepers, Guerdon’s dominant faith. She needs to go down to the fucking elder ghouls to deliver a letter from the rulers of the church. En route, they encounter a Crawling One, a worm-sorcerer who feeds on the memories of the dead, but eventually they reach the elder ghouls – who promise to maintain their eternal watch over the prison containing the Ravellers.

(Three hundred years before, the masters of the Ravellers, the tyrannical Black Iron Gods ruled over Guerdon, until they were thrown down by the Kept Gods, However, gods cannot die – so the fate of the Black Iron Gods is an enduring historical mystery.)

Back on the surface, Rat returns to the Brotherhood. Heinreil promises to ensure Spar’s freedom, but instead he arranges for Spar to be poisoned to silence him. The Brotherhood also turn out to be involved in the ongoing bombing campaign, which Jere discovers to be connected to the Black Iron Bells. Eladora discovers that the Black Iron Gods were reforged into bells after the war, and hidden around the city – and the alchemist’s guild is now using the Brotherhood to steal these bells. It appears that Professor Ongent knew this, as he told Jere to recover a book from his office, Sacred and Secular Architecture in the Ashen Period – that book held the clues that led Eladora to her discovery.

(Meanwhile, in the valley of Grena, a goddess is destroyed by a weapon made from one of the Black Iron Bells. This is the first time a god has been destroyed by a mortal weapon, and promises to be a major factor in the Godswar that rages outside the neutral city of Guerdon. The bell used to make this godbomb came from a monastery on the island of Beckanore, which was recently captured by the necromantic Kingdom of Haith, a major power north of Guerdon.)

Guided by her visions, Cari rescues Spar, although she arrives too late to prevent him from being poisoned. They take refuge with an old friend of Spar named Mother Bleak, and resolve to use Cari’s new power to take down Heinreil. Spar recruits various other thieves, including the influential Tammur and the ghoul Silkpurse as part of his campaign against Heinreil.

Jere’s assistant Bolind is secretly replaced by the Raveller.

However, the poison threatens to kill Spar before he can challenge Heinreil. Cari goes in search of Professor Ongent, hoping that he can aid her in healing Spar. She’s nearly murdered by Sinter, an agent of the Keeper’s Church, but escapes with the aid of Ongent’s son Miren, who has the mysterious ability to teleport. Cari is suddenly drawn to Miren, and the two sleep together.

Jere and Eladora (and not-Bolind) visit Effro Kelkin to report on their findings. Kelkin reveals that he knew Jermas Thay, the patriarch of the Thay family and grandfather to Carillon and Eladora. Thay was a visionary – or madman – who spent his family fortune on magical research. An anonymous source revealed to Kelkin that Jermas was a secret worshipper of the Black Iron Gods, and Kelkin alerted the Church of the Keepers to this. The Thay family were executed by church saints, including Aleena. Kelkin knows Eladora’s mother Silva, who is a Safidist – a fanatic worshipper of the usually docile Kept Gods.

Kelkin takes the trio to meet the heads of the Church of the Keepers. The Keepers bring along Aleena and an elder ghoul, who identifies Carillon as a saint of the Black Iron Gods – a herald, bred by the late Jermas Thay to reactivate the dormant deities. Carillon must be killed to ensure the city’s safety. However, before they can act, the Raveller disguised as Bolind attacks, killing Jere and the elder ghoul. Eladora is rescued by Aleena.

Cari, Spar, Rat and Miren break into the alchemist’s guild and rescue Ongent. While there, Cari sees two of the captured Black Iron Bells being reforged into bombs. She also encounters Guildmistress Rosha, the head of the Alchemists. Rosha claims that she needs Cari to improve the yield of the bombs, and offers to reward her for her aid. Miren interrupts, stabbing Rosha. However, Rosha is discovered to be a wax duplicate, a new form of Tallow-creature, and survives (or, rather, she has multiple disposable bodies).

Eladora and Aleena attempt to warn Parliament that Rosha’s alchemists are behind the bombings, and that the alchemists are trying to seize the prisons of the Black Iron Gods. However, Rosha has already seized power, and their appeals fail. Instead, Aleena leaves Eladora in the care of the church’s spymaster Sinter while she searches for answers.

Below the city, the sorcerous Crawling Ones launch a surprise attack on the other elder ghouls, killing them all. The Crawling Ones free a host of Ravellers, who rise to the surface and begin herding sacrificial victims to the Seamarket – a huge trade-hall, formerly a temple to the monstrous gods.

Professor Ongent combines his sorcery with Cari’s divine connection to the Black Iron Gods to temporarily heal Spar. A restored Spar challenges Heinreil for leadership of the guild, and wins the support of the thieves. An army of Tallowmen arrive, led by Rosha, who is in league with Heinreil. She double-crosses him, dispatching the Tallowmen to arrest all the thieves – but Heinreil has secretly allied himself with the Crawling Ones, who intercede. A magical battle ensues, with many casualties.

In the aftermath, Rat consumes hundreds of corpses, transforming into an elder ghoul. When he visited the elders earlier, one of them used him as a mouthpiece and spy; that connection allowed the elder to survive the Raveller’s attack. Rat pursues Cari, intent on killing her.

Cari escapes, but is captured by Saint Aleena. The city is in chaos – Ravellers are rising from the depths, and the Alchemists are desperately trying to seize the remaining Black Iron Bells. Cari tries to use a bell to find Heinreil – if she has her mother’s amulet, maybe she can control or banish the Ravellers. She uses the power of the gods to strike down Heinreil, compelling his carriage to crash, but she can’t find the amulet. She’s attacked by Rat, and rescued once again by Miren.

Sinter’s hiding place is attacked by Heinreil. The master of the thieves intends to flee the city, but first he must make good on his debt to the Crawling Ones. He gives Eladora and the amulet to the leader of the Crawling Ones – a resurrected Jermas Thay. As Herald, Cari has awoken the Black Iron Gods – Eladora is close enough, spiritually speaking, to finish the job. Jermas intends to steal the power of the Black Iron Gods and create new rationalist gods to defend Guerdon from the madness of the Godswar. Cari’s mother was a Raveller – and the amulet was made from what remained of her, afterwards.

Eladora manages to contact Saint Aleena and warn her of the danger posed by Jermas’ plot.

Cari, Spar, Professor Ongent and Aleena conceive a desperate plan. Aleena and a few thieves will travel to Jermas’ hiding place in the Thay family tomb and rescue Eladora. Miren will then teleport back to Cari and give her the amulet, giving her control over the Ravellers and ending the crisis before Rosha’s alchemists blow up half the city to contain the outbreak.

Cari, Spar and Ongent travel to the Seamarket, so they’ll be in position to use the amulet once they get it. They climb, up and up, to the bell at the apex of the dome.

Aleena meets the transformed Rat outside the tomb. They storm the tomb and destroy the Crawling Ones there. Miren takes the amulet and teleports back to the Seamarket. Aleena, Eladora, Rat and the surviving thieves battle their way out of the tomb, but only Eladora and Rat survive an attack by Crawling Ones.

When Miren arrives, he stabs Spar, knocking him from the parapet to plunge to his death far below. Ongent paralyses Cari with a spell, and reveals that he’s a secret worshipper of the Black Iron Gods. He was one of Jermas’ acolytes, but betrayed Jermas to prevent him from remaking the Black Iron Gods. Ongent intends to use Cari to free the gods from their bell-prisons, but she ran away to sea. He created Miren as a replacement herald – but now that Cari’s in his power, he can use the genuine article. He puts the amulet around her neck and rings the bell, summoning the Black Iron Gods to full wakefulness.

The Ravellers begin a sacrificial slaughter, offering souls to the resurgent gods.

Held by Ongent’s spell, Cari cannot move – but she manages to use Ongent’s healing spell to divert that flood of divine power into Spar. In a miracle, Spar’s stony body explodes into a New City that consumes a quarter of Guerdon. The explosion of architecture, of spontaneous creation, overwhelms the alchemists, burying the guild, Rosha and the unfinished god bombs under this bizarre New City, born from Spar’s dying dreams. The Ravellers are also destroyed.

Weeks later, Eladora tracks down Cari in the New City. Eladora reveals that the ghouls are now under the rule of Rat, and that the Crawling Ones have been driven from the city. Ongent is dead. Miren is missing. Heinreil is in custody, having been apprehended by a Tallowman made from Jere Taphson.

The alchemists are in disarray, and have been forbidden from making new Tallowmen. Effro Kelkin now runs the city through an emergency committee, and Eladora is his assistant, with special responsibility for studying the New City.

Eladora returns Cari’s amulet to her. It appears, she says, to be magically inert now.

Cari puts the amulet on, and touches the stone wall of the New City, born from the transmuted body of her friend.

Spar, are you there?

5 thoughts on “Gutter Prayer Refresher

  1. I just finished The Gutter Prayer and thought it was amazing! I’ll have a review up on my site soon. In other news, I’ve placed an order through Amazon for The Shadow Saint. Let me know if you’d be interested in doing a written interview to be posted on my site.


    Brian (Hippogriff)


  2. This was really helpful for my too-many-stories-containing memory! Thank you!
    It’s been a while since I’ve read The Gutter Prayer and when I started The Shadow Saint, yes, at first I was quite pleased because I even managed to remember Dredger, but it went rapidly downhill from there and a few minutes later I was wondering: “Who the f was Kelkin again?” So, I was very happy to find this summary – even written by yourself! Thank you very much. I can now go on reading chapter 2 without feeling like I’m missing something – well, except for the parts I’m supposed to miss, I guess.
    Impressive world-building, by the way. It feels very well-thought-out and I know the amount of planning that goes into something like that. It’s great to read about a world where everything seems to have its place and history. (But please stop killing off my favourite characters. … No, don’t, but … you know …)


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