“Yseult” Is an Engrossing, Tragic Love Story!


Yseult by author Ruth Nestvold is a truly engrossing retelling of a classic romance. 

I have to be honest. I was not very familiar with the tragic love story of Yseult and Tristan when I picked up Yseult, which is book one in Ruth Nestvold’s The Pendragon Chronicles. However, as I started reading the five hundred-pages plus re-imagining of the Arthurian legend, I found myself engrossed in the story.

Trigger Warning! This book contains graphic scenes of sexual nature!

Even if you aren’t into stories set in “Dark Age” history, and Irish lore, you will still find Yseult enjoyable. Author Ruth Nestvold does an amazing job detailing the history of the time she explores and introducing her characters to the readers. Some of you might feel a bit confused at first with all the unfamiliar names and Gaelic that’s in the book, because I know I was. However, there’s a glossary at the end for you to go over, and it makes things easier.

Not only that, there are three characters named Yseult. This might throw you a bit off track if you aren’t focusing on the story and know which Yseult the author is talking about.

While there’s a lot of political maneuvering going on in the book, and the old age clashes with the new, the major focus is the love affair between Yseult and Tristan (or Drystan in this book). Our heroine, Yseult, has to marry the father of her lover. And things get complicated for the two love birds because they refuse to stop having a relationship with each other even after Yseult’s marriage. There are instances where they try to stop, but they always rekindle their passion for each other. Considering the tone of the book, you know things are going to end badly for them.

The only thing I know about the legend is when Tristan gets injured and asks for Yseult of Ireland (an extraordinary medic) to heal him. I think it was a cartoon, or I read it way back when I was in school. The story goes that the ship Tristan sends for Yseult has been ordered to fly white sails if she’s onboard, and black sails if she’s not. Even though Yseult agrees to board the ship and white sails are flown during the ships return, Tristan, who’s too weak to look out the window, asks his wife to check for him. His wife, who is also named Yseult, lies due to jealousy and tells him the sails are black. Upon hearing this Tristan dies of despair. When Yseult of Ireland finds her love dead, she passes away due to grief by his side.

So, I knew about the ending of the legend and it was fun reading Ruth Nestvold’s take on the two lovers as they tried to be together in circumstances that were against their joining for good. It is near the end of the book that things diverted from the story I was familiar with. I actually found the changes to be enjoyable, because it made room for a sequel.

Yseult of Ireland, our main heroine, is a well-developed character. Due to the family she belongs to, she has the power of healing, knowing, and changing. While I found her to be strong in some of her decisions, I couldn’t help but notice that she kind of turned love-struck where ever Drystan was involved. Anyone reading the book would more or less scream that their affair was wrong, but then again the two not having an affair to begin with wouldn’t have given rise to a legend that has survived the ages.

Don’t forget to check out our interview with Ruth Nestvold!

Yseult (The Pendragon Chronicles Book One) is also featured in our store.

Have you read Yseult? Are you familiar with the legend? Let us know!

Author: Farid-ul-Haq

Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.

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