Reviewed by: Jasmine Bennett
I love this book for two main reasons: The level of research that the author did to improve the historical accuracy of this book, and the way it was written.
It could be classified as a romance, but I will not call it one because of the nature of the story. The book is based off of the Bible book “Esther”. In this book by Angela Hunt, a young girl, Hadassah, grows up in the care of her cousin Mordecai and his wife Miriam in Susa, the capital of Persia. She is quiet and demure, but does not fancy the simplistic, practical Jewish way of life. The bright Persian cloths, the banquets and parties are what excites her. Hadassah and her cousins are invited, along with all of the other citizens, to a banquet at the king’s palace. Xerxes hosts the men’s banquet, and Queen Vashti hosts the women’s banquet. They feasted many days, and then on the final day of the feast, came the fateful wish from King Xerxes. He wanted Vashti to appear before him and display her beauty before his banquet guests. She denied the king, and then she was forbidden from entering the presence of the king, and she was un-crowned. A new queen would be chosen.
A few years later, a decree went out from the king’s palace, ordering beautiful virgins to be brought to the palace where they would be beautified and pampered, and perhaps the king would choose a new queen from among them.
Hadassah tried to avoid being taken, but she was kidnapped by slave traders. Hadassah, along with many other girls, was taken to the palace. For safety, she changed her name to Esther, a Persian name.
After a long while of pampered living, beautification and cosmetics, and lessons on how to behave like royalty, the young girls were waiting for the king to choose a new queen. Then the day came when King Xerxes called for a girl. The eunuch in charge sent Esther, knowing she was special. The king was captivated by Esther and sent for her again the next day. He was so impressed by her that he crowned her the queen. Esther starts to fall in love with the king. Is she naive by doing so? Perhaps. But I think it also shows a dedication and a deep spirit to Esther’s character. For a long while, Xerxes is enamored and fascinated by Esther. He spends time with only her, and neglects any other concubine. Then, she becomes pregnant, but after only a short while, has a miscarriage. Devastated, Esther tries to convey her feelings to her husband, the king. Not only does he not seem to understand, he starts spending less time with her. Then one night, Esther hears that he has called someone else into his presence. Hurt beyond belief, Esther realizes she, surrounded by servants, slaves, court nobles, whoever she wants to summon, is alone.
“My king and queen might have been supremely happy if not for the ghosts that haunted them. Esther mourned the children she could not seem to carry, and the king mourned the loss of his reputation as an invincible warrior.”
Esther: Royal Beauty, page 249
The story of Esther, ancient as it is, is incredibly moving, and is applicable, in a way, to modern times. Sometimes marriages go awry, or things come in-between a husband and wife. In the case of Esther and Xerxes, it is an arranged marriage, based solely on looks and captivation. But parallels to modern marriages are still there. Anyone can read this book, and relate to it in some way, although many times I choose to read the story as it stands, and not be emotionally involved.
Character Development: It was superb throughout this story, and I would give it a 10/10. The character of Esther changed from a naive, enamored young girl, to a mature, wise queen. While the character of Xerxes did not change much, I think that enhances the effect that the king thinks that he must be constant and consistent, and hold himself to a very high standard to be like his father. The torment of the standards of the king remains, even though he tries his best to relieve them.
Setting: 9/10 The Persian culture and setting of the city is hard, obviously because it is historical, and therefore hard to be totally accurate, but Angela Hunt does a fantastic job making you feel like you are there.
Plot Line: is definitely a 9/10. It moves along quickly, but lingers in each scene long enough so you get the most out of it. I enjoyed seeing the story unfold through the multiple characters, and how each character adds to the development of the plot.
Description: 10/10. The smooth marble of the palace walls, or the dust of the street, are both easy to see in the book. The description is spot-on, and helps the story to feel a certain way. To me, the description in the book is almost as important as the plot line. In a movie, you don’t need to hear the actor describe it. You can see the green of the trees, and haze in the distance. But in a book, many things need to be described, or you don’t see it.