BookSneeze had the ebook version of A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther by Joan Wolf available to review. I happily downloaded it onto the Kindle app on my phone, and started reading.
On the surface this is a novel based on the biblical account found in the book of Esther in the Bible. However, while I fully understand that biblical novels must add fictional details and make assumptions, in my opinion, this author goes too far. Adding details is fine, changing the facts found in the Bible is not ok. If you want to write a love story set in ancient Persia, fine. But to say this is the story of Esther bothers me. This author freely admits (in her note at the end of the book) that she "took liberties" with the Biblical account. Some examples include, having Esther's "interview" to become queen last only an hour, and only include Esther and the King talking. While I know most children's versions of the story are ambiguous on this point, as they should be, and simply say that Esther "went before the King" or "met the King", the Bible is pretty clear on this:
In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who kept the concubines. Esther 2:14
I don't think there can be any doubt that these interviews were not simply sitting and chatting in the garden.
This book also states that Haman went behind the king's back (while he was gone, fighting a battle) and decreed the destruction of the Jews, so that the king didn't even know the decree had been made. That Mordecai was taken prisoner at the same time the decree was made (so the whole sack cloth & ashes and conversations between Esther and Mordecai never happen in the book, instead her Persian grandfather informs her of the law, and Mordecai's imprisonment). Additionally the book reduces the time of fasting and prayer from 3 days to 1 day, and Esther only invites the King and Haman to one banquet, not two. And the book skips the scene where Haman comes in to ask to kill Mordecai only to have the king tell him to honor Mordecai by leading him through the city.
All in all, if you're looking for a fictional story, set in ancient Persia, this is a good book (though I don't know how historically accurate it is, there were aspects of the history that I question as well, but since I am not an expert in ancient history, I can't say for certain). If you are looking for a biblical novel based on the book of Esther, I would recommend looking elsewhere.
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