Wednesday, March 4, 2015

2500 Years and We're Still Laughing

Esther: Royal Beauty

Angela Hunt
Dangerous Beauty #1

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. 

Approximately 2500 years ago, a young Jewish woman named Hadassah was chosen by the Lord to be a spokesperson for her people in their time of need. Queen Esther is one of two women in the Bible whose actions were so important that they received their own books. Tonight at sunset, the Jews victory over Haman is celebrated. Tonight (and tomorrow) is Purim. I plan on celebrating Purim, and I thought it would be delicious that to celebrate I review Esther: Royal Beauty.

As I said, being one of two women with their own book (Esther and Ruth) in the Bible, they tend to appear pretty frequently in Biblical Fiction. Esther in particular has several movie adaptations, including a VeggieTales version. My personal favorite of these are One Night  with the King. As I started seeing more of Queen Esther I went back and scrutinized the book itself. The majority of fiction sees Queen Esther and King Xerxes (or  Ahasuerus) as being wildly in love with this fairy tale romantic love story (VeggieTales is actually more accurate). They might’ve been for a time, but their relationship was not characterized by true love.

Which was why I was so pleased that Angela Hunt stuck to the facts, and went beyond the fairy tale romance. I was entranced with this version because of this on many facets. King Xerxes in Jewish culture is generally known as a fool, and you saw it in this version. You also got to see what could’ve been the reasoning behind so many of the actions that they took to get to Purim. For instance, why did Esther have two banquets? Why wasn't one enough? Angela Hunt provides a reasonable and fulfilling explanation for a lot of these kinds of instances.

Another thing I liked was how it was written. Instead of being written in third person, she switches between two first person point of views. The first, the obvious, is Queen Esther. The second is slightly more surprising, Harbonah, the King’s eunuch chamberlain. Queen Esther is the narrator that can be relied upon to share the Jewish aspect, but Harbonah was an unusually good choice in that he isn’t as biased on the foolish king would be and he delivers the story in the scope of what would’ve been going on in the empire. I was surprised that Angela Hunt didn’t choose Hegai, the famous eunuch to whom Esther was entrusted, but it did make an appearance and was mentioned several times so all was well.

I also enjoyed how much story there was before Esther entered the palace. The story of when she was still a little Jewish girl. While it was mostly speculation, Angela Hunt based it off of Jewish laws and customs which made it extremely believable and enjoyable.

A word of warning: Eunuchs go through, at a very young age, a traumatic travesty. Harbonah isn’t explicit about it, but you do understand what happens. I found it very alarming. A few other things came up like idols, sacrifice of children, sex out of marriage etc. Xerxes was a Persian king and his morals and actions in the story reflect that.  

Don't forget to click on the cover to read an excerpt. Enjoy Reading!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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