Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)
Perhaps a young Jewish woman, a peasant from Susa, should have been the most unlikely possibility, the most unlikely candidate to be the next Queen of Persia. Nevertheless, her ascension to the throne turns out to be a timely rise to meet impending danger in Hadassah: One Night With the King by authors Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen.
The first time I read this book over a decade ago, it became one of my all-time favorites. The flawed heroine’s journey in this novel that’s part thriller, part fictional memoir based on the biblical book of Esther was a needed balm for me during a dark season in my life.
Reading the novel for the second time years later, I again have found it to be a rich, nuanced, violent, poignant, deftly written story. It has so much of what makes historical/period reads engrossing to me. And Tenney’s intent stands out in the spiritually driven metaphors that speak to close relationship with a King.
Even so, the metaphors will never make a hero out of the cruel, vulnerable, weary, changeable man of excess and war, Xerxes. And despite what Hadassah/Esther comes to feel for the king, this novel isn’t a romance.
While I in no way need this to be a romance or a fairy tale, one of its key ironies didn’t strike me earlier in my life, but it strikes me now. The irony of the story’s genocide. An Amalekite is out to exterminate Jewish (Hebrew) men, women, and children—a mission stemming from a time when Israelites (Hebrews) were out to exterminate Amalekite men, women, and children.
Yet, only one of these extermination missions is really painted in a negative light here. Of course, I know why, but I’m not okay with it. I’m not okay with genocide.
It may be additionally ironic that I still consider this work of Biblical Fiction to be one of my all-time favorites. While it’s partly due to the deep, beautiful writing and to my previous experience with the novel, it’s also partly because reading this book has again shown me something so important about myself.