THE DARK FORTRESS by Joseph  Nutter


From the "Tales of the Outcast Sorceress" series, volume 1
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Nutter mixes high fantasy with Old England in a novel featuring Saxons, Vikings, magic, kings, and a handful of talkative beasts.

Several characters in this tale seek the Celestial Sphere, the most powerful magical object in the land. Of these, readers first meet Gwenllian, “a spellcaster who had been cast out of Wessex…over untrue accusations,” and Sagramour, her equally disgraced counterpart. After losing his position as the king’s wizard, Sagramour plots to bring destruction to his enemies when he gains control of the sphere. Accompanying him on his quest is Lord Gudrek, the devious master of the Dark Fortress, whose only interest is personal power. Gwenllian, meanwhile, finds herself on the side (but not in the company) of her ex-suitor King Alfred and his faithful knights, Bodwyn and Calibor. Calibor’s young brother, Jorin, and his friend Garreth, also join the fray when their hunting trip in Dragon Woods lasts longer than anticipated. With Sagramour threatening life as they know it, Jorin and Garreth agree to join Gwenllian’s band of critters as they penetrate the Dark Fortress. Unbeknownst to them, they travel with the sorceress in their midst, in the shape of a “striking green” frog. It’s she who protects them as they encounter various obstacles on their journey. Nutter’s dragons are reminiscent of those in Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon series, the adventure is a little like that of Bruce Coville’s Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher (1991), and his creatures wouldn’t have been out of place in J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2001). Nutter’s scenes cut back and forth between various characters’ storylines, which adds to the overall intensity of the plot. However, a comprehensive list of the various players—and a map or two—might have made the reading experience a bit less confusing. In the final few chapters, the heat of battle takes over the narrative; the last clash is laborious but reaches a rather exciting climax. It would have been more satisfying, however, if the book’s ending wasn’t so perplexing.

A sprawling, crowded tale that would have benefited from a clearer conclusion.

Pub Date: April 13th, 2018
ISBN: 978-0-9993208-6-0
Page count: 370pp
Publisher: Joseph Nutter Publishing
Program: Kirkus Indie
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