Thursday, March 10, 2016

Esther - Review

Esther: Royal Beauty (Dangerous Beauty, # 1)

By: Angela Elwell Hunt

Published: January 6th 2015 by Bethany House Publishers

348 pages

Genre: Christian Fiction, Historical Fiction

Source: Personal Kindle Library (Christmas present from my sister-in-law)

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Goodreads description--An ambitious tyrant threatens genocide against the Jews in ancient Persia, so an inexperienced beautiful young queen must take a stand for her people.

When Xerxes, king of Persia, issues a call for beautiful young women, Hadassah, a Jewish orphan living in Susa, is forcibly taken to the palace of the pagan ruler. After months of preparation, the girl known to the Persians as Esther wins the king's heart and a queen's crown. But because her situation is uncertain, she keeps her ethnic identity a secret until she learns that an evil and ambitious man has won the king's permission to exterminate all Jews--young and old, powerful and helpless. Purposely violating an ancient Persian law, she risks her life in order to save her people...and bind her husband's heart.

Esther marks bestselling author Angela Hunt's return to biblical fiction. In each novel she explores an example of a Hebrew Old Testament tob woman: a woman whose physical beauty influences those around her--and can change the course of history.

I have to say that Esther: Royal Beauty both was and was not what I was expecting and hoping. I was hoping that it would be a book that would delve me into the mind and heart of Esther so that I could experience this story from a more romantic point of view. I was surprised that Angela Elwell Hunt decided to go as far back into the story as she did, but it makes sense looking back on everything. However, at the time this decision meant for a slower start than I prefer. Also, Angela Elwell Hunt decided to include a second narrator. Usually in my experience of romance books with dual narrators the narrators are the two people involved in the relationship. Instead, the second narrator was a eunuch--a servant of the king--rather than the king himself. From a romantic standpoint, I think I would have preferred to read from the king's perspective. The eunuch provides insight into what the king thinks and feels because of how well he knows the king while still maintaining a feeling of distance.

Even though the eunuch used as a narrator was a completely fictionalized character, Angela Elwell Hunt did her best to try to stick to a historical and accurate portrayal of the events of Esther and history. Her decision to do this I feel did lessen the potential romantic possibilities of this story and thus explains why Esther: Royal Beauty was both what I was expecting and not all at the same time. In the end, I really enjoyed the approach that Hunt took. While I had originally hoped for a fairytale and romanticized version of this story I ended up being impressed with how true it felt. How certain events took place that weren't romantic at all.

At first I felt like Hunt was taking liberties with Esther's character that weren't completely accurate, but after reflecting upon the story and reading her author's note at the end of the book, I can see why she made the choices that she made. And now I'm beginning to think that she might have been right on in her estimation of Esther's character and person which enriches my view of the Biblical story at the same time. Esther goes from being a very young girl at the beginning of this book with young girl things on her brain, to a teenager filled with hormones and first loves, and into a blossoming young woman faced with some terribly difficult choices. Even knowing the outcome of the story before starting this book, it was nice to see Esther's growth process and changes.

Favorite quotes:

-"Never usurp the right of the Almighty to plan your future"...

-"I have suffered, yes, but I have also overcome."

-"I suppose one can find good in any situation, if one takes the time to look."

-"A proud man will be set against all that is holy, for he is the god of his own world."

-...the world has never experienced a shortage of fools.

Esther: Royal Beauty was and was not what I was hoping for. It wasn't as romantic and fairytale as I originally hoped. But I feel it was a more accurate retelling of the events that ended up providing me with a deeper understanding of the story and the characters involved. And that's about as much as I could ask for. Because this book was not as romance driven as I had hoped, I can see where it might be a slow read for some readers. It would have been for me too had I not had the rare opportunity to read without having to stop too much. Esther: Royal Beauty gets 4 Stars from me. Have you read Esther: Royal Beauty? What did you think? Let me know!

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