Monday, February 19, 2018

The Bleak and Empty Sea: The Tristram & Isolde Story (Merlin Mystery #3), by Jay Ruud

Encircle Publications, August 2017

Tristram, one of the famous knights of Arthur's Round Table, and his lover, La Belle Isolde, wife of King Mark of Cornwall, are dead. Sir Tristram was wounded in a skirmish against the Norse, but though the wound seemed minor, he lingered for weeks, growing weaker and weaker. At last he asked for the greatest healer he knew, his lover Isolde, to be sent for.

His wife, Isolde of the White Hands, was not pleased, but she could hardly object.

La Belle Isolde is sent for--and arrives moments after Tristram dies, following a cruel remark from Isolde of the White Hands. Upon finding Tristram newly dead, she collapses in a faint, and is dead within minutes.

Now Merlin, necromancer and King Arthur's great advisor, and his young assistant, squire and hopeful future knight, Gildas of Cornwall, are investigating the two deaths,  Merlin does not believe in death by broken heart.

Neither does Master Oswald, the abbey healer who is the most forthcoming and apparently objective observer they speak to.

But everywhere they look, relationships are more complicated than they seem on the surface, and seemingly everyone has a motive to lie.

Gildas is a naive but intelligent observer, and he's learning a lot from Merlin just following in his wake and listening.

It's as plausible a fifth-century Britain and Brittany as any that includes a full-blown King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, with all its associated stories. The characters are fifth-century people with fifth-century knowledge and beliefs, not fact 21st century agnostics misplaced in time.

Enjoyable and worth reading.

Recommended.

I received a free electronic galley from the publisher, and am reviewing it voluntarily.