by Rebecca Kanner
Howard Books

"I am not here by accident."

The story of Esther has been told and retold over the centuries through oral and written traditions, and in later years—plays and movies. Numerous books, whether nonfiction or fiction, have been written to shed light on the probable details in one of Old Testament's inimitable and well-loved plots. Esther is an orphan peasant girl who is kidnapped and taken into captivity for one specific purpose: to satisfy the lustful desires of King Xerxes. Later, the magnificently wealthy ruler of Persia is tricked into agreeing with the elimination of the Jewish population. Kanner's latest novel adds new spins to the girl who smartly used her beauty and brains to save her people from genocide.

Narrated by fourteen-year-old Esther, Kanner's plot portrays a girl whose wisdom far exceeds her youth. Faced with trials on every side, especially from Hamen's niece Halannah and his sons, Esther exudes self-confidence as well as determination in following God. Since Esther's enemies pale in comparison to her supporters, Kanner takes literary liberties by incorporating a tight handful of fictional characters who not only acknowledge Esther's steadfast qualities, but also come to Esther's aid. Character examples include two people who eventually become Esther's closest friends, Ruti (Esther's handmaid) and Hegei (harem eunuch). Kanner displays Esther's flawed side by introducing another fictional figure who Esther falls in love with—Erez, a guard in Xerxes' elite force.

While her first-person narrative covers all the expected plot elements—Esther's kidnapping, her year of regal preparation, Xerxes pronouncement of Esther as queen, Hamen's diabolical machinations, and Esther's cunning and bold approaches to King Xerxes to expose Hamen—Kanner creates a ray of hope with an added twist as her gripping novel draws to a close. A combination of old and new, backstories, and plenty of unexpected character scenes, Esther is nothing less than a top-rate historical novel.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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