Title: Star of Persia: Esther’s story
Author: Jill Eileen Smith
Genre: Biblical Fiction
Publishing Date: Mar 3, 2020
Length: 368 Pages
About the Book:
In an effort to complete a war his father had planned to win, King Xerxes calls every governor, satrap, and official in his vast kingdom to his palace in Susa to strategize and feast. When they finally leave, he decides on one more week of frivolity, which ends in the banishment of his favorite wife, something he never intended to do. But when he discovers Esther, Xerxes is sure he has a second chance at happiness.
In her wildest dreams, Esther could never have imagined that she would end up as queen of Persia. Yet she knows better than to become complacent. Another of Xerxes’s wives is vying for position, and his closest advisor has a deep and dangerous grudge against Esther’s adoptive father. Caught in the middle of palace politics, Esther will find herself in an impossible position: risk her life or consign her people to annihilation.
With her impeccable research and her imaginative flair, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the romantic, suspenseful, and beloved story of Esther, queen of Persia.
With Esther being such a favorite biblical character for women, her story can be quite the risk to undertake. By now, unless readers are brand new to biblical fiction, there’s a good chance that they’ve already read at least one other retelling of Esther’s life. As someone who has read a few others myself, I would have to say that even though I enjoyed this one, it admittedly hasn’t dethroned my favorite. In no way does it mean it wasn’t a solid read, it just means there’s also a lot of good competition out there.
I liked that this telling included parts that were from Vashti’s perspective. I don’t think I’ve seen that before but it gave an added layer of depth. I wish we could have seen from her following her banishment, but just as in the Bible, her tale ends when Esther steps in. I also liked getting a glimpse into the mind of Xerxes. It was easier to see him as a man and not just a king. In some ways I was even able to relate to him. He clearly had an approval addiction, and because of it he was easily misled. Over time he grew more and more paranoid as he wasn’t able to trust anyone anymore. By looking to other men instead of God for direction, he found himself wrought with anxiety.
I am always one who greatly encourages reading the author’s note at the end when they are included, but I have to admit that this was one that didn’t sit right with me. As I was reading this story there were pieces that seemed to stand out, and I wasn’t sure if it was due to creative license or through actual research. For example, this was the first read that I recall adding an extra wife (Amestris) to the main narrative. In the author’s note she stated that she tried something different by weaving the “secular history into the biblical story.” I understand that there is secular history about Xerxes that doesn’t quite match up, but it bothered me to see that it appeared the secular history was elevated above the Bible in order for the pieces to fit together. It also bothered me to see that it was secular HISTORY vs Bible STORY, when the Bible itself IS history. Maybe it’s just me reading into it too much, but it didn’t sit right with me.
Even though there were elements that I wasn’t fond of, overall I did enjoy the read and could still easily recommend it to others. At the end of the day this is a work of fiction, and should not be looked upon as the ultimate truth. Instead, we should be looking to the Bible for that. It was still an interesting and engaging read.
*I received a copy of this book from Revell Publishers. Thoughts and opinions expressed are mine alone.