Tuesday, November 3, 2015

ESTHER by Rebecca Kanner - Review

From the award-winning author of Sinners and the Sea comes a breathtaking new look into the timeless tale of Queen Esther.

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 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.

Wow. Wow wow wow. This book, holy crap, this book, you guys! This is Queen Esther like you’ve never heard it told before—i.e., what it might have REALLY been like. When you hear Bible stories, they’re always wrapped up so prettily. Oh sure, there’s mention of how all these virgins are grabbed up and all the concubines of the king, but that’s all brushed over because… GOD. God was doing His stuff, yo! God saves His people again! Oh yeah, through this chick called Esther, but...God! It’s all so nice and sanitized, just like our pretty Sunday School dresses.

So you know, little details of what it must have been like living among the backstabbing harem and all the politics of palace life and the positioning that must have been necessary to keep Esther alive, not to mention the sex that was happening, cause you know—harem of concubines!—none of that was ever part of the story. But Kanner brings Esther-the-woman alive. From a terrified (but always strong) girl being stolen from her bed to the wise and canny queen, Esther always feels real. Getting to take the journey from her perspective is thrilling. I couldn’t put the book down, as in literally, I read it in a single day.

What I didn’t expect going in was the almost Game of Thrones-esque palace intrigues. Esther has her team of insiders and informants, but Haman is an insidious adversary as good as any Lannister. Sometimes Esther outsmarts Haman, sometimes she doesn’t and the battle between them for the easily swayed King can get bloody. All in all, a thrilling novel that’s by turns heart-breaking, hopeful, and one that will ultimately change the way you think about this legendary woman forever. Five stars.

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