The world holds hope and promise for young Esther. As a Jew, she may be considered inferior to her Persian counterparts, but she has a freedom they can only dream of. That is, until she is presented as a candidate for the king. Suddenly, Esther is not only a prisoner to the Persian regulations, but to protocol too. The difference between her and the other girls in the harem is that she doesn’t want to be chosen queen.
King Ahasuerus is tired of the same flighty women and their power grasping families. Then he meets Esther. For the first time, he has met someone who eases his loneliness. Esther sees him for who he is, and not what he is. She is too good to be true.
That is what tortures Esther the most. She isn’t true. Not only has she concealed her Jewishness from her husband, but also the fact that she was sent to the palace in hopes of having a Jewish advocate in the king’s ear. When Haman, the king’s right hand and best friend, issues a decree that calls for the annihilation of the Jewish people, it is up to Esther to speak. If she does, Esther could lose the husband she has come to love. If she doesn’t, thousands of innocent people — her people — will die.
A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf is the story of Esther as never told before. And I mean, as never told before. This novel left me with very conflicting emotions. On the one hand it’s a great story that maintains a comfortable pace and keeps the reader’s interest from cover to cover. Wolf creates likeable and convincing characters that will attract the readers. That said, it is not historically or Biblically accurate. While I still would have read it, I wish I’d known this beforehand. If I had been prepared for all the liberties the author took with the story of Esther I don’t think I would have felt so let down. I understand that in historical fiction, an author has to fill a lot of gaps with just that…fiction. But when the writer starts changing actual facts that are known, then I have a problem.
The story of Esther is one of my favorites, which only made the inaccuracies all the more disappointing. And though Wolf crafts good, strong characters, many are so far removed from those in the Biblical account they almost seem like completely different people. Haman for instance, acted more like the kings spurned lover who hated Mordecai (and consequently the Jews) out of jealousy and not because of a centuries old feud between the Agagites and the Jews.
While I still recommend this book to romance and historical fiction fans, I would advise you to go into it, aware of the differences. I truly enjoyed Esther’s innocence, simplicity, and strength as well as the dazzling king who won her heart. The beautiful relationship Wolf creates between King Ahasuerus and Esther definitely makes A Reluctant Queen worth reading.
Review copy provided by publisher.
**Originally posted on Fiction Addict.