This eBook was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Review: Confession–I’ve never read a book about a character of the Bible. But this book has me interested in reading more.
The story of Esther is one many Christians know by heart. The virgin Jewish girl is captured for King Xerxes to either become his wife or become his concubine. She manages to win his heart and secure her place on the throne while keeping her Jewish heritage a secret. Her cousin, the king’s accountant, reveals to her that Xerxes’ adviser, Haman, has convinced Xerxes to sign an edict to kill and plunder from all Jews–men, women, and children alike. Esther must choose to either speak up for her people at the risk of her own life or remain quiet and allow her people to be slaughtered.
Not only did Rebecca Kanner do the research for this novel; she also managed to bring the characters to life.
To become queen to a man like Xerxes, I believe Esther must have been one of the most intelligent, independent women in the Bible. She had to fight other concubines for the throne, earn the king’s favor enough to also earn his ear, and be wise enough to turn the king against one of the men he favored most–all as a woman who took the place of Queen Vashti, who was dethroned because she “disobeyed” her husband.
Kanner paints Esther not only as the cunning woman I believe she was, but also as someone who could march beside a target without flinching from the arrows. Someone who could keep moving forward in the face of tragedy. Someone who could watch men be tortured. Kanner’s Esther has a ferocity which rivals her beauty–a trait I believe puts this interpretation above all others.
Though I’ve known this tale since early elementary school (thanks, VeggieTales), the plot felt new to me. Kanner added suspense not only through Esther’s fiery personality, but also in her strained relationship with her husband, her attraction to one of the king’s most loyal soldiers, and her conflicts with other girls in the harem.
One of the most interesting traits of this book is that it actually had sex scenes. I expected Kanner to do as most Christian authors do and leave off at the bedroom door, but she went a little further. She wasn’t graphic or obscene; she simply wrote what she thought may have happened between the king and the woman he made his wife. And really, why shouldn’t Christian fiction have simple sex scenes? Too often Christian fiction authors shy away from the subject. I understand if they’re uncomfortable with writing it, but God created sex to be a good thing, under the right circumstances. Heck, Song of Songs is about sex, and it’s in the Bible! But I digress. Don’t worry about the book being too scandalous; if it were a movie, it’d be PG-13.
The reason why I withhold half a star from my rating is because–despite the plot holding my attention–certain sections felt too long. The walk Esther is forced on at the novel’s start drew on a little too long for my liking, as did the part where Esther decides to train in self-defense. Moreover, the ending felt too happy. Perhaps Kanner was just trying to show that God rewards those who serve Him? Or perhaps I am used to novels that end on more of a low note.
Recommendation: I’d recommend this book for those ages 18 and up who are interested in Biblical adaptations or even just interested in historical fiction with a strong female lead.