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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Esther was an ordinary girl, the daughter of a rabbi. Orphaned at a young age, she was adopted by her father’s brother, Mordecai. She matures into a beautiful woman, and the Persian king of kings, Xerxes I, chooses her as his wife. Esther was forced to hide her Jewish ancestry, but as queen, she stands up for the rights of her people and, along with her uncle Mordecai, she saves them from genocide. The story is well known: the Book of Esther is one of the books of the Old Testament, an important section of the Jewish Tanakh, and one of the five scrolls of the Hebrew Bible. Other than this text, believed to have been written by Mordecai, not much is known historically about Esther. But she was a real person who became an influential queen. Her story is what legends are made of.
Lin Wilder’s novel, The Reluctant Queen: The Story of Esther, is a riveting historical fiction novel following the life of an important biblical figure. Writing fiction with historical accuracy is a challenge in itself, but writing about a time and a person whose life itself some might believe to be mere fantasy requires a great deal of knowledge of the time, the people in general, and the overall concept of what might really have happened. Like many great historical fiction writers of our time, this author writes as if she knows the people she writes about. Her ability to weave a narrative of such monumental proportions is comparative to the work of Sharon Kay Penman, though Lin’s work goes much further back in history than Penman’s. The story is told mostly in the first person, from Esther’s point of view, giving the plot development a very personal touch. Lin’s novel is a brilliant mixture of reality, fiction, descriptive narrative, believable dialogue – all with a sound knowledge of ancient Persian history. Add a little romance, conflict, battles, and discord, and this story has all the makings of an ancient scroll. Powerful!