In her book, Esther, Angela Hunt retells the biblical story of a Hebrew girl taken from the protective care of her Uncle Mordecai to the palace grounds of the Persian king. After a year of preparation, she is presented to Xerxes and chosen as the next queen of the Empire. But being the wife of the most powerful man in the world does not keep Esther from a life of intrigue or danger. She must maintain her dignity and integrity in an atmosphere rife with secrets and sabotage. When an unexpected threat emerges, Esther must expose the danger before it is too late, revealing her own identity and putting herself in mortal peril in order save her life and the lives of those she loves.
As the story opens, the reader is transported to the Susa region of the Persian Empire where Esther struggles to maintain her Jewish identity in a foreign culture far from her homeland. The vivid descriptions of the landscape and the customs of the Persian culture show that the author went to great lengths to research the setting of the events. The historical background enhances the narrative and makes the reader aware of the unforgiving world in which the characters lived.
The story of Esther is told through two points of view: those of Hadassah, (Esther’s Hebrew name) and Harbonah, a eunuch who serves in Xerxes’ court. Each character has a unique voice and perspective and relay portions of the narrative without interrupting the flow of the story. This is done in a way that makes the account plausible, and the reader sympathetic.
The dialogue between characters seems authentic and reflects the characters’ true motivations without telling too much. It feels natural and is used as a vehicle to portray Mosaic and Persian laws and customs. Although from a Biblical perspective, the dialogue doesn’t burden the reader with long passages of Scripture or an overtly preachy tone to convey a Christian message.
The plot and the pace of Esther varies. The action is balanced between internal character struggles and external events. The book has many storylines and subplots to fill in the Biblical narrative. Some historical incidents are seamlessly woven into the plot, while others are from the author’s imagination. Esther has a definite romance angle which is surprising at times and is used to propel the story forward. The narrative is built to an apex which catapults the book to the desired end true to the Scriptural account.
Esther is geared toward Christian women. Readers should be aware of some violence, but it is consistent with the time, place, and historical record. There are also some scenes that, although may not be inappropriate, depict mature situations which the Bible does not record.
There are two weaknesses in the novel. The story opens with Esther dreaming about the life of a princess. This is useful in the character’s growth from the story’s beginning to end, but it doesn’t seem consistent with the life portrayed in the Biblical account. The other weakness in the story is the way it finishes. The plot was meticulously built to a climax and, although true to Scripture, it ended a bit too abruptly.
Although the ending could have used a bit more polish and there were places which could have used a little less imagination, all in all, Esther by Angela Hunt is a well-crafted story and is biblically and historically accurate. The descriptions of the customs and the culture are fascinating. Esther is a worthy retelling of God’s intervention in the lives of His people.
I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.