Being familiar with the book of Esther in the bible, I must say that this historical fiction is some what different from the biblical account. As the author puts it, it is "the love story of Esther".
The story was set in the city of Susa, where Mordecai worked in the King's treasury. Esther was his orphaned niece. After Queen Vashti was deposed, beautiful virgins were taken into the palace to be prepared as candidates to take her place. Out of many formidable rivals, Esther was chosen as the new Queen. Meanwhile, Haman (the Jews' enemy) was plotting to annihilate the Jews. Esther courageously went before the King to plead for her people. The Jews were saved and Haman was executed.
This book provided a glimpse into the daily life in the palace that one cannot get from reading the scripture. I find it entirely believable that Esther did fall in love with her royal husband. And it is certain that she won the favour of her husband. I know it was probably naive to believe that a great King can be satisfied with bedding one woman exclusively. But it is wonderful to believe love does conquer all in some cases.
I like the chapters devoted to the less formal life the royal family spent in the summer hill resort. In that setting, I see the warring and conquering abilities of the victorious race. Without the horses, they would not be controlling such a great empire stretching from India to Ethiopia.
After conquering many nations and taking captives, the city of Susa must have been a most cosmopolitan place. Seeing that Mordecai was placed in a literate position in the treasury, this government obviously utilized the many talents of their captives.
Another interesting fact is that the conquering race counted the blood line from the father side. But the Jews counted it from the mother side. If Esther's mother did not marry her husband who was not a Jew, there would be no Queen Esther. (And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.) It is obvious that Esther is the one called to save her race.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
The word that kept ringing in my mind as I read A Reluctant Queen was "accessible." Joan Wolf has done a marvelous job of taking the biblical story of Esther and making the key historical figures accessible. They are not just words on a page anymore - they seem to be living, breathing people who are following the course that has been set out for them.
The story centers around Esther. In this fictionalized take on the historical Esther, Esther is portrayed as confident but shy, and fairly unassuming. Her uncle, Mordecai, enlists her to enter the king's beauty competition to find a new wife, so that she can be a secret representative of the Jewish people. As most readers already know, the king picks Esther over hundreds of other girls, and Esther unexpectedly becomes queen.
The meat of this book is undoubtedly the growing relationship between the king (Ahasuerus) and Esther. As was customary in that time and region, they barely knew each other when they married. However, Esther finds herself appreciating him more and more, and they begin to form a tentative relationship. I loved the dialogue between these two - alternately formal and informal. It was great to see the relationship take root and finally blossom, and I found myself smiling on more than one occasion.
The only downfall to the book, in my estimation, is how much political talk there is. I recognize that it is historical, and quite central to the story, but I found it to be detracting from the love story. That being said, Wolf does a great job of portraying Haman as an incredibly jealous man, and by the end (*SPOILER*), when he is hanged, the reader is glad to see him go.
I enjoyed this quick read, if for no other reason than to have these characters come alive so vividly. I highly recommend this book!
A Reluctant Queen is loosely based on the Biblical story of Queen Esther, although in this story she is married to Ahasuerus, and Xerxes (the Great King and her husband in the Bible story) is his brother. I don't know much about the Persian Empire, so I really enjoyed being immersed in the time period and Esther's royal life. I didn't realize that the Jews living in Persia lived counter to the prevailing Persian culture. I was drawn in and felt like I was in Susa right along with Esther and those surrounding her.
You can buy A Reluctant Queen from Amazon or Christianbook.
With thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson for my review copy.
Political intrigue, mystery, suspense and romance make up the plot for A Reluctant Queen - The Story of Esther by Joan Wolf. In this book, Ms. Wolf takes the story of Esther, the Queen of Persia, who risks her life to save the Jews from annihilation, and turns it into a fictional love story between Esther and Ahasuerus.
Esther, a young Jewish girl, who was brought up by her uncle Mordecai, is convinced by her uncle to join the King's search for a new queen. Believing that this is God's direction in order for her to save her people, the Jews, she obeys her uncle. Her hope is that the King will not find her suitable to be his queen. After months of preparation, Esther is finally presented to the KIng. King Ahasuerus was so taken by Esther's beauty, honesty and intelligence that he immediately declares his search for the queen finally over.
Now Esther must prepare her heart and mind to become not just the Queen, but the wife of a man she hardly knows. Will she be able to love him truly? As the Bible story goes, Haman, the King's trusted friend and 2nd-in-command plots to kill Mordecai and destroy all Jews. Now Esther must act to save her people from sure death. The big problem she faces is that the King has no idea that she, too, is a Jew. How can she face him now and tell him that all he knew about her is a Lie? Will the King divorce her as he had done with his previous wife, Vashti? Will she be able to save her uncle Mordecai from the hands of the treacherous Haman? Will she be able to save the Jews from annihilation?
Joan Wolf is a great storyteller! I have always believed that Esther's story was so amazing. As presented in A Reluctant Queen, Joan Wolf made Esther's love story even more beautiful and real. For two nights in a row, I have been living in the King's Palace in Susa. I witnessed Esther's growth from a terrified young girl, to a beautiful, self-assured Queen. The story is so powerful and moving. If it wasn't close to morning last night, I would have read it straight through. I loved how the love story of Esther and Ahasuerus was told, interspersed with many different supporting characters and sub-plots. Despite all the characters involved, the story flowed smoothly and beautifully. And behind it all, we witness how God's hand is at work in the life of Esther and that God's plans will be followed. I cannot say anything more except that, out of all the fiction I have read, this is by far, the best!
Disclosure: I received a free Digital Galley of this book from Net Galley. However, I will receive a copy of this book for free from Litfuse Publicity. Both are given to me in exchange for this review.
Having read the Book of Esther and wondered why this was included in the Bible, I was interested to see how Esther's story could be re-told and brought to life. Just how did a Jewish girl end up in a harem auditioning for the role of Queen, and what did the King see in her? How did Esther come to save the Jewish nation, and what did she feel about it all?
Joan Wolf brings the Persian Court vividly to life, and uses it as a backdrop to tell the compelling story of one girl's obedience to God and to her elders. A love story, and a lesson in trusting God no matter where He leads.
I'll admit, when this book arrived, I put it aside for a while. It didn't feel like the light reading I thought I needed at the time. But, I ran out of other reading matter and I opened it up. And I fell into a world painted so beautifully that two weeks later, I am still at home in the Palace and in the market place, with the young Esther giggling with her friends, and with Queen Esther, taking her life in her hands to plead for her uncle and her nation. I'm pleased I had respite that day, because Esther's world was far more gripping than my own, even though I already knew how the story would play out.
Joan Wolf has written a compelling book, and I can't wait to see whose story she chooses to tell next.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneezeÂ®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."