The Bleak and Empty Sea

By: Jay Ruud

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. 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.

Based on 14 Reviews
Elisabeth Carey
February 19, 2018

4.0 out of 5 stars Merlin and a murder mystery

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.

P. Woodland
January 25, 2018

4.0 out of 5 stars The Bleak and Empty Sea

I did not realize when I accepted this book for review that it was part of a series. Whether I just glossed over that as I read the synopsis or just didn’t keep the information in my head I cannot tell you. It really didn’t impact the story or my enjoyment of the book, it really did stand alone quite nicely. I do think that a person needs at least a grounding in the Camelot/Arthur legend to understand the characters and what is going on. The author does provide a listing at the end of the book describing the characters and how they intertwine. This volume picks up as Arthur and his knights are trying to figure out whom to invest on to the Round Table when word reaches of the death of Sir Tristam. For this book also includes as its underpinnings the legend of Tristam/Tristan and Isolde/Iseult. That story is given in far more detail so if you don’t have knowledge of it you needn’t worry. There are questions as to how Tristam died – his wife, another Isolde was cruel to him on his deathbed but did that contribute to his end? Guinevere asks a young squire by the name of Gildas who once served in her court to find Merlin and to go across the sea and investigate for one of her ladies is sister to Tristam’s wife and fears for her reputation. Gildas and Merlin have had success in the past with solving mysteries so they set off to find the truth of the deaths of Tristam and Isolde. I will admit to being a little confused at the outset until I got used to the author’s writing style. Once I did things got easier. I found myself quite engaged by the story and rather unsure of who the bad guy was until the end. Some acts I had figured out but that is sometimes the way of mystery books. I found Merlin and Gildas to be entertaining, well balanced characters although Gildas did get on my nerves after a bit. He is just so idealistic – he needs to realize that even kings are human. I will look forward to further installments of Merlin’s Mysteries because these two are a very interesting pair and I’m sure that no matter what they investigate it will be entertaining. I received a free copy for my honest review

January 22, 2018

5.0 out of 5 stars What I love most about this book is the humor that is …

"The Bleak and Empty Sea" is a masterful and enjoyable book. Ruud writes with authority and clarity and this allows the reader to feel totally immersed in the story as it progresses. The characters themselves are real and imperfect, making them accessible to the reader. Ruud crafts this world well, bringing a complex and distant time to us in a way we can understand, even if we aren’t masters of Arthurian literature. What I love most about this book is the humor that is present throughout. I found myself enchanted by Gildas of Cornwall. As a dog-lover, the bereavement of the Borzoi touched my heart and was a beautiful addition to poor Captain Jacques death. I highly recommend this book to fans of Arthurian literature, or those of who love mystery. You will not be disappointed!

January 1, 2018

5.0 out of 5 stars which I thoroughly enjoyed. Gildas

What a unique concept! As a mystery lover, I found the use of the Arthurian court so clever and different. Using famous characters from literature as sleuths and victims is a bold and interesting concept, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Gildas, as the main character and everyman, helped move the story along and humanized the tale. Jay Ruud has quite the way with words. He is gifted as a storyteller and Arthurain scholar. I highly recommend this novel.

Doug Ohmer
December 20, 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST BOOK YET BY JAY RUUD!

"All stories are the same story" mumbles Brother Gildas on the last page of the latest book in the Merlin Mystery series by author Jay Ruud. It’s quite the contrary, however, in Ruud’s latest book "The Bleak and Empty Sea". In his third novel, Ruud has created a spellbinding mystery, that is definitely NOT the same story as in his previous two novels. Ruud keeps the reader constantly guessing the identity of the murderer(s) of Tristram and Isolde, as the main characters, Merlin and Gildas, unravel the mystery. Ruud’s writing sets your imagination wandering the court of King Arthur and the Middle Aged streets, palace and cathedral of St. Malo, Brittany. A great and enjoyable read!

December 13, 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars A rollicking good story

Love story, murder mystery, tale of intrigue and Arthurian goings-on–such an enjoyable read. The narrator is a charming guide through the tale, which is told with ease and humor. You might want to brush up on your Arthurian knowledge a bit, as there are a lot of names to keep straight, but everything becomes clear soon enough, even if you’re (like me) rusty on matters of the round table. Once you’re in the story, though, you’re in!

Ali Welky
December 13, 2017

Love story, murder mystery, tale of intrigue and Arthurian goings-on–such an enjoyable read. The narrator is a charming guide through the tale, which is told with ease and humor. You might want to brush up on your Arthurian knowledge a bit, as there are a lot of names to keep straight, but everything becomes clear soon enough, even if you’re (like me) rusty on matters of the round table. Once you’re in the story, though, you’re in!

Amazon Customer
November 30, 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars unrequited love, jealousy and great writing

This book has it all; mystery, romance, humor, unrequited love, jealousy and great writing. My favorite, most beautiful line in the book, deserving of being underlined in ink, "But there are no words in any human language that can console the inarticulate cry of the heart." Ruud can seamlessly weave beautiful, serious writing with chuckle out loud prose. His deep knowledge of the Arthurian period is evident in his books. He does introduce many characters but, (lucky for the reader who gets in a page or two waiting for a dentist appointment and has to stop in mid chapter) he has put a wonderful Cast of Characters index in the back of the book; so no going back and re-reading. I have read one of his other books and will continue the series. Camelot is a charming and fun place to visit with Ruud at the helm. I can’t wait to go back!

Kim and Aaron
November 23, 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars Manic medieval murder mystery mayhem

Overall, a highly enjoyable mystery story centered on the story of Tristram and Isolde. I have not read the previous two books in this series yet, but this book stands alone with little trouble. The introductory chapters are a bit dense, packing in a great deal of Arthurian history and inundating the reader in characters that will probably feel overwhelming even if you are already familiar with Mallory and Arthurian legend. Once you get through it and Merlin shows up the story is much easier to follow. I cannot fault this narrative style, however, because it is integral to the central theme of the story. Funniest quote in the book (and not indicative of the overall style): "Sir Bors was moaning aloud while King Arthur made indignant sounds of wounded royalty, as if death had not shown him the proper respect." The mystery itself is solid, with well-placed but not overly obvious clues. The interplay of Arthurian legends and "real life" is delightful. This Merlin is more scientific Sherlock than magician, and our narrator Gildas is a 17 year old Everyman, but also his own character with excellent development. In a largely unrelated note, this book has what is now my all-time favorite epilogue.

November 11, 2017

5.0 out of 5 stars Courtly Love, Mystery, and Intrigue

Ruud breathes new life into classic Arthurian tales. His depiction of Gildas and Merlin remind me of a Medieval Sherlock and Watson. “The Bleak and Empty Sea” is an intriguing tale with well rounded and relatable characters. Merlin and Gildas are asked to investigate the mysterious deaths of Tristram and Isolde by Queen Guinevere and Lady Rosemounde. They take up this dangerous quest to find the truth behind the untimely deaths. Throughout this journey Gildas is shown to be innocent and idealistic, making him a truly likeable character. His innocence is slowly challenged as his heroes are shown to be fallible humans. Even as his world implodes, he finds a way to keep his idealism. I recommend this book to anyone that enjoys a mystery or a tale of Camelot. I can’t wait for the next installment!

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