Last week while I was feeling a little bit under the weather, I passed some of the time reading a new novel, A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther by Joan Wolf. I usually enjoy fictional adaptations of biblical stories, and I’ve loved the story of Esther since I was a child. I’ve read multiple different versions of the story and seen several movie adaptations, so I was curious to see if this one would hold my interest or offer anything unique. I have to say that it did!
The storyline definitely takes a few liberties with the biblical facts, but Ms. Wolf has created an interesting, fresh take on a familiar story in my opinion! There were several unique twists that set this one apart from other versions I’ve read or seen. One thing that really struck me was the idea that Mordecai deliberately submitted Esther for consideration to be the queen. I’d always thought of it or seen it portrayed that there had been no choice in the matter. It gave a different slant to the whole story that kept my interest level high! The historical details were well done and really helped place the story into the timeline of world events (for example, references to the Battle of Marathon and the prophet Obadiah).
How well I connect and identify with the characters in a novel can make or break it for me, and I found the characters in A Reluctant Queen well developed and realistic. Each of them, including the main characters, had faults as well as strengths. I enjoyed the romance that blossomed between Esther and the king and the exploration of how his multiple wives and harem played into things. I also really appreciated the “subplot” about the relationships that Esther developed with her servants and the effect it had on not only them, but the king and his court. The portrayal of Haman was unique compared to other versions I’m familiar with too. Rather than making him out to be a heartless villain, he truly cared about the king, but was overcome with possessiveness and jealousy.
A Reluctant Queen, though definitely fictionalized, retains the spirit of the biblical story and deftly handles themes of romance, integrity, and trust. This is definitely not just a tired rehash of a familiar story. I had a hard time putting it down, reading it in two sittings! If you enjoy biblical fiction, I highly recommend this fresh take on an old tale!