Published by Revell on March 3, 2020
Genres: Fiction, Christian, Historical, Biblical
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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.
Writing Biblical fiction is no easy task, particularly when the chosen protagonist is also the protagonist of an entire book of the Bible. With ten novels of lesser-known biblical women in the rearview mirror, Jill Eileen Smith tackles her most ambitious novel yet with Star of Persia.
I find myself saying this with every review of a work of biblical fiction: The lesser-known the character, the more freeing the fictional narrative can be. “Famous” characters come with a lot of baggage and expectations. There are the limits of the Scriptural narrative, the fact that the story has been told and retold by others already, reader expectations, cultural expectations, and so on.
My primary standard for judging a work of biblical fiction is how well it adheres to a proper historical and theological background while yet not seeming chained to biblical events. And on that standard Star of Persia passes with flying colors.
Smith’s tale is perhaps a bit sanitized—okay, likely quite sanitized—particularly in her depiction of Esther’s relationship with Xerxes and Esther’s place within the harem. To accurately detail all of this would likely keep the story from “Christian” fiction shelves. The story itself is fairly benign, not straying far from the biblical tale. The addition of Amestris is by far the most intriguing detail, one I wish would have played a larger role.
Smith interlaces the biblical narrative with known secular history with ease. Even though the story is familiar, Star of Persia is well-written enough to keep readers intrigued. The romance element is heightened which is probably (read definitely) not historically accurate, but it follows the typical extra-biblical view of this story.
Other than the Amestris storyline, there’s not much that stands out about the plot of the novel. We know where it’s going. We know how it ends. But Jill Eileen Smith does give readers an enjoyable journey to that destination. This was my first book by Smith and she’s left me wondering how she would handle characters that would give her a bit more freedom. I’ll have to check out some of her previous work to find out.