A glittering Persian king has a vast empire that reaches farther than where the sun meets the horizon. He is bathed in riches and commands a frightening military force. He possesses power beyond any other mortal man and rules his kingdom as a god. Anything he desires, he has. Any woman he wants, he possesses. Thousands of them. Young virgins ripped from all across his many lands.
A Jewish girl is ripped from her hut by the king’s brutish warriors and forced to march across blistering, scorched earth to the capitol city. Trapped for months in the splendid cage of the King’s palace, she must avoid the ire of the king’s concubines and eunuchs all while preparing for her one night with the king. Soon the fated night arrives, and she does everything in her power to captivate the king and become his queen.
But wearing the crown brings with it a new set of dangers. When a ruthless man plies the king’s ear with whispers of genocide, it is up to the young queen to prevent the extermination of the Jews. She must find the strength within to violate the king’s law, risk her life, and save her people.
This is a story of finding hidden depths of courage within one’s self. Of risking it all to stand up for what is right.
This is the story of Queen Esther.
I approached reading this fictionalized account of the Book of Esther with both caution and delight. Fictionalization of Biblical accounts in general make me wary. It seems that most authors usually have some kind of political or anti-religious agenda. But the story of Esther is one of my favorites in the Old Testament, and really in the Bible as a whole, so I was willing to give this a shot. I’m very glad I did!
Ms. Kanner’s prose is absolutely beautiful. The tone was similar to that used in the Biblical narrative, so immersing myself into the story was surprisingly easy, and there are very few (if any) distracting linguistic anachronisms, which is one of my pet peeves in historical fiction. Her descriptions are absolutely spot-on–I could see everything happening inside my head, as if I was watching a movie.
She did a fantastic job of handling such complex characters. I came to loathe her characterization of Xerxes, but I also found myself sympathizing with him as well. I was saddened when I reached the end of the book.
Ms. Kanner also included something I love to see at the end of historical fictions–she pointed out where she took artistic license and deviated from historical, Biblical accounts of the story.
Recommended for lovers of inspirational, historical, or Biblical fiction. I look forward to future works from this author!
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Rebecca Kanner holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Fiction Writing from Washington University in St. Louis. Her writing has won an Associated Writing Programs Award, a Loft Mentorship Award and 2013 and 2016 Minnesota State Arts Board Grants. Her stories have been published in numerous journals including The Kenyon Review and The Cincinnati Review. Her personal essay, “Safety,” is a Notable Essay in Best American Essays. Sinners and the Sea was her debut novel. Her latest novel, Esther, was chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Fiction Books of 2015.
Along with other authors including Anita Diamant, Michael Cunningham, Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks and Ron Hansen, Rebecca will be featured in the upcoming title Truthful Fictions: Conversations with American Biographical Novelists.
Connect with Rebecca by visiting her website: