I recently had the opportunity to review an electronic copy of: A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther by Joan Wolf. Booksneeze provided me with a free copy of the story in exchange for my honest review.
I have always been fascinated with the story of Esther. I remember I did a final semester project on her for Bible class in high school. I was therefore excited to read a fictional story of her life as I have continued to be intrigued as to her story.
Let me start by saying that this was an amazingly well-written book. It was a love story that kept me up way too late wanting to finish it. I was absolutely mesmerized by the tale. The author did a fantastic job creating beleivable, reasoning characters who drive the action.
The only thing that was a bit hard to reconcile was that this was historical fiction. As Joan Wolf writes in the note which follows the story, "To turn the Book of Esther into a novel, I had to give the characters humanly understandable reasons for acting as they did. Haman had to have a reason for hating Mordecai so much; Mordecai had to have a reason for sending his niece to the King of Persia's harem; Esther had to have reasons for doubting her uncle's dream; Ahasuerus have to have reasons for picking such a socially unsuitable girl to be his queen. For all of the above reasons, I felt it necessary to tinker a bit with the Esther story as it is presented in the Bible."
Wolf took many liberties in telling the story all with the sole purpose of intertwining the Bible story and the novel in the underlying premise. "God has a plan for the world, and He works His plan through the actions of humans. The big question is, will we allow God to work through us? God wants us to be His partners, but we have the free will to accept or refuse His challenge. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, all of God's people must listen to His voice and open their hearts for Him to use us for His purposes."
I had trouble while reading as I found myself so incredibly moved by the story but wanting to assure that it lined up to the Bible. In the end, I had to continually remind myself that this was not historical fact. It was historical fiction. In addition, while I am not a history buff, I do think many liberties were taken even on the historical side.
But that aside, if you are even slightly intrigued by the story of Esther or well-written Christian love stories, then this is the book for you. I promise you, you will not be disappointed if you keep in mind that this is not accurate to the Bible or history. It is simply a retelling, with incredible liberties, of a great story, told, greatly.