Reviewed by Peggy Jo Wipf for Readers' Favorite
Isabella Berdyna Zysk compiles five of her heroic historical novellas in one novel, The Venturous Tales: A Collection. High King Wigmund commissions his Royal Storyteller, Lady Ethelfled, to write five stories of adventure, chivalry, and honor to be read as entertainment at a summit of monarchs. She gives each of her five understudies leeway to write one with the stipulation that they must be filled with knightly virtue, of royal wisdom, and of noble valor. What each of these authors creates is a masterpiece of valiant warriors viewed from a humble servant's point of view. The king reads each story and is surprised to find all of them lack the fire-breathing dragons, sword welding knights, and fainting maidens that he was anticipating.
The Venturous Tales: A Collection has a unique introduction to a collection of novellas. Isabella Berdyna Zysk skillfully merges her books and delights the reader with five distinctive stories. The author's clever introduction gives the reader an insight into each of the fictional writers and their witty ways of inserting pieces of themselves (my personal favorite was "Woof"). The stories each feature a different country and characters that are not likely to be seen as courageous. Each story holds a mystery as to who the fictional author will feature and shows Zysk at her finest. I loved how each story showed strong and independent women who supported the role they were given in life and expected their men to be brave and courageous. Zysk applies all the elements of a good historical romance collection: appealing narrative, excellent writing, and characters that excel in bravery to follow their heart. I would recommend each of her novellas or the whole collection.