Murder mysteries are fun, but murder mysteries set in Arthurian time seem like they could be even better.
Today’s review is on The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram and Isolde Story (A Merlin Mystery #3) by Jay Ruud. It boasts to be an Arthurian murder mystery that incorporates aspects of courtly love, mystery, and murder.
I received a copy of The Bleak and Empty Sea (A Merlin Mystery #3) in exchange for an honest review, via TLC Book Tours. With that in mind, lets get into the review, shall we?
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The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram and Isolde Story (A Merlin Mystery #3) by Jay Rudd
Publisher: Encircle Publications (August 10, 2017)
Print Length: 217 pages
When word comes to Camelot that Sir Tristram has died in Brittany of wounds suffered in a skirmish, and that his longtime mistress, La Belle Isolde, Queen of Cornwall, has subsequently died herself of a broken heart, Queen Guinevere and her trusted lady Rosemounde immediately suspect that there is more to the story of the lovers’ deaths than they are being told.
It is up to Merlin and his faithful assistant, Gildas of Cornwall, to find the truth behind the myths and half-truths surrounding these untimely deaths. They take ship to Brittany to investigate, and find themselves stymied by the uncooperative attitudes of Tristram’s close friend Kaherdin, lord of the city; his sister and Tristram’s wife Isolde of the White Hands; and Brangwen, La Belle Isolde’s faithful lady-in-waiting.
The case is complicated by the facts that King Mark of Cornwall is Gildas’s own liege lord, and that Duke Hoel, Lord of Brittany, is King Arthur’s close ally and father of the lady Rosemounde, who urges Gildas to clear the name of her half-sister, Isolde of the White hands, whom gossip has implicated in Tristram’s untimely death. By the time they are finally able to uncover the truth, Gildas and Merlin have lost one companion and are in danger of losing their own lives.
The Bleak and Empty Sea by Jay Ruud is a unique take on a beloved classic.
The Bleak and Empty Sea is the story of Gildas, a squire to Sir Gareth, as he is charged by Guinevere, Queen of Logres, to find Merlin and travel to Saint-Malo to investigate the death of one of King Arthur’s three greatest knights of the round table, Sir Tristram.
I rather enjoyed Ruud’s retelling of Arthurian legend by mixing it with, what I perceived as, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. While reading the novel I was able to assign much beloved Doyle’ characters to the Authurian figures, with the most distinct being Merlin as Sherlock, Gildas as Watson, and Sir Dinadan as Inspector Lestrade. However, in The Bleak and Empty Sea I thought Ruud was able to make Merlin and Gildas relationship a bit more believable as Merlin’s intellect never truly shadowed Gildas, making them more equals to the partner relationship between Holmes and Watson.
While this is the third in a series, there was truly only one instance that it was brought up, meaning that if this book strikes someones interest they don’t necessarily have to read the first two novels in the series to have an appreciation for The Bleak and Empty Sea.
I suppose my reasoning for not rating this novel higher is two-fold. First, while I am someone who reads historical non-fiction for fun, the deep historical roots for someone who, say, picks this up for the mystery aspect may have to read the passages several times for context, meaning even though this book is only 208 pages doesn’t mean it is an ‘easy’ read. Second, there are a lot of characters to keep straight. I was mostly confused about the characters of Isolde, as one was the lover of Sir Tristram and the other was the wife of the same. Thankfully, Ruud sort of addresses this issue by including a cast of characters at the back of this book, so once I looked everyone up it became easier to keep them separate from one another.
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
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And those are my thoughts on The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram and Isolde Story (A Merlin Mystery #3) by Jay Ruud. Do you have any recommendations that you think I should check out? Leave it as a comment below and help my TBR grow.