About the Book
Author: Diana Wallis Taylor
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
Release date: July 2, 2019
One of the great heroines of the Old Testament, Hadassah was a beautiful, graceful young woman who put her faith in God and her guardian, her cousin Mordecai.
She dreams of marrying Shamir, a tall, handsome, studious young man who is the rabbi’s son. Her heart beats faster when she hears the sound of his deep voice as he reads the Torah. And she hopes that he will visit Mordecai soon to present a betrothal request.
Then, an upheaval in King Xerxes’s palace changes everything. Queen Vashti has been banished and an edict goes out for all qualified young virgins throughout the empire to be taken to the palace as he searches for a new queen.
Fear strikes in the hearts of many, including Mordecai, as he realizes Hadassah will be taken. To hide her identity as a Jew, he tells her to go by the name of Esther. Since he works as a record-keeper at the king’s gates, he can keep tabs on how she is doing.
Hadassah: Queen Esther of Persia imagines what life was like for the woman who saved her people—and perhaps found love in the process.
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About the Author
Diana Wallis Taylor was first published at the age of twelve, when she sold a poem to a church newsletter. After receiving her B.A. in Elementary Education at San Diego State University, she was an elementary school teacher for twenty-two years. Diana has also sold real estate, opened two coffeehouse/used book stores, and was a conference director for a private Christian college.
She has an extensive portfolio of published works, including a collection of poetry; an Easter cantata, written with a musical collaborator; contributions to various magazines and compilations; and several books, including Lydia, Woman of Philippi; Mary, Chosen of God; Ruth, Mother of Kings; and Halloween: Harmless Fun or Risky Business?
Learn more at www.dianawallistaylor.com.
Read an Excerpt
Besides the usual vendors, there were strange, sweaty men with beady eyes who were looking to get rich from the additional population.
In the wee hours of the morning, while Mordecai sat with his head in his hands, silently praying, Jerusha stopped breathing, slipping away so quietly that Hadassah thought she was still sleeping.
One day, to the people’s relief, the news was spread that the unwelcome banquet guests had been ordered back to their provinces—to prepare for war.
Instead of bowing, Hadassah smiled unabashedly and gazed directly at the king, who at that moment had turned his head.
“Do not give your name as Hadassah, but tell them it is Esther, which is a Persian name. I would have you hide your Jewish heritage for now.”
She felt their eyes silently appraising her; some with open interest, some with sympathy, and others with calculating shrewdness.
Esther asked each maid gentle, innocuous questions about her homeland, favorite foods, culture, and the like, listening attentively to their answers and making sure to speak to them by name both to let them know they were important to her and also to help her remember who was who.
“If you maidens help me to be my very best when I am called to the king’s chambers, if he honors me by selecting me as his queen, I will not forget you, who helped to put the crown on my head.”
Esther had seen some of the women pass her quarters so laden with jewelry they could hardly walk. She wanted to laugh out loud, but suppressed even a smile.
Recognition came. “Ah, the maiden in the crowd. I thought about you many times.” He moved closer. “I remember your hair, like a cloud around your face.”
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To celebrate her tour, Diana is giving away a grand prize of a $20 Starbucks card and a surprise book!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.
I was very disappointed with this fictional account of the life of Queen Esther, a Jewish girl born as Hadassah. Each of its few positive traits was tainted by a negative.
Though the characters were engaging, I'm not sure how realistic they were. Esther seemed to have no flaws, always full of faith and calm. I wanted more of Esther's doubts about her role in history and feelings about her night with the king. Mordecai was probably the most realistic character, with King Xerxes next.
The POV was always third-person, but it began as deep into one character or another, usually either Esther or Mordecai, which was a strange shift from a young girl's perspective to an older man.
Which, by the way, Mordecai's age was never spelled out and felt inconsistent. He and his wife were past child-bearing age when Hadassah was 8 years old. But 14 years later (9 years until Hadassah was made queen + 5 years as queen, in this story), he still hadn't reached his "sunset years" and was still serving as the king's advisor. And yet his uncle, Hadassah's father, was still young enough to bear children. It was possible, but not likely. The Hebrew word for "cousin" was a generic word used for any kind of kinship, not necessarily the children of your parents' siblings.
Even though I enjoyed some of the historical references, it felt that some of them were just dumped without a real purpose. There were several other inconsistencies that, though minor, pulled me out of the story. Especially the reference to Hadassah being of the lineage of King Saul because she was from the tribe of Benjamin. All of Saul's children were killed to make way for King David to ascend the throne. The only exceptions were lame Mephibosheth and possibly daughters (like Mihal). Unless she could place her line directly from them, (which was over 400 years and 20+ generations before), she couldn't have been in the direct line of King Saul himself.
I think the main problem with this story, however, was the pacing. There were so many chapters at the beginning given to her childhood and what her life was like before being chosen as queen. Much time was spent recalling a recurring dream. Then when it actually come true, it was glossed over in two sentences.
But all of that former life seemed to be forgotten and didn't impact the rest of the story at all, except for her belief in Adonai, the Jews' name for the God of the Bible. Then so little time was actually given to the account in the Bible where Esther saved her people from slaughter. And around that time, we no longer heard Esther's feelings and inner thoughts about what happened. It then became almost a historical recounting from a faraway narrator.
There was also a lot of mention of the physical aspect of marriage. It seemed to be the basis of the entire "love" relationship. I know that queens at that time didn't have much authority, but it's hard for me to believe it was true love, especially if the king still used his concubines, as is pointed out several times in the story. As a hopeless romantic, the romance fell short of my expectations.
Maybe it was that there really was no plot. It was just a bunch of episodes, vignettes into the life of Hadassah. If the main plotline was that she was chosen to be king "for such a time as this" to save the Jews, then the story should have ended after the climax of saving her people. If the main plotline was the love story, as the author implies in her Author's Note, then the story should have ended with her in the king's favor. There was absolutely nothing satisfying about ending the story where it did. We didn't need to know any of that stuff (neither did the grotesque death rituals of the Persians add anything to the story, except as another information dump).
One good thing I gleaned from this book was what I hope NOT to do as I’m writing my own Biblical fiction. This reminded me that a great cover and compelling description are not the only thing that sells books.
Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book. Perhaps someone else will find it charming and love it. But I just didn't enjoy much of anything about it.
(I received this book for free. The decision to write a review, as well as the opinions expressed in it, are all my own. I was not compensated for this review.)