Brings the biblical Queen Esther to life in a way you'll never forget
Young Esther never thought her life would turn out like this. All she ever wanted was a quiet life in her Jewish community...and a loving husband and children someday. Then, one frightening day, she's stolen off the streets by the Persian king's guards and forced into the competition to be Xerxes' next queen.
Catapulted against her will into life inside the harem, Esther's simple world becomes complicated. There's her chief rival, Isis, who is out for blood...and the king's mercurial temperament. Then a dastardly plan gains momentum that will make all evil pale in comparison. And Esther is the only one who may have the power to stop the bloodshed...
As she looked into the face of her rescuer, she froze. She was looking into the eyes of a Persian soldier.
“Looks like you found a right pretty one there, Otanes.” His companion leered. “Let’s get a better look at her." He roughly pulled off her veil. He paused when Esther’s luxuriant black waves cascaded to her waist, as if surprised by exactly how beautiful she was.
Esther guessed he hadn’t expected the rest of her to complement her face. All her life, she had been told that Jehovah had given her an exquisite face. It was perfectly proportioned, with arching black eyebrows and lashes that framed startling green eyes. Mordecai could not remember any relatives who had green eyes, though he said her great grandmother had brown eyes with tints of green. But Esther’s eyes were truly green, like the jade that the jeweler Benjamin worked in his shop.
“Well, well, well, why hasn’t a beautiful girl like you arrived at the palace yet for a shot at the crown?” the one called Otanes rumbled in a comfortable bass voice.
Such a Time as This is based on the Biblical book of Esther. The Book of Esther has always been one of my favorites, so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this novel and had great hopes for it. Thankfully, it didn't disappoint.
In Such a Time as This. the Jewess Esther is kidnapped by palace guards while she's at the marked, shopping for her sick grandmother. The Persian king has just discharged his queen in disgrace, and all the beautiful girls of the city are rounded up and brought to the castle to join the king's harem and compete for the position as a possible replacement.
By the grace of God Esther is chosen as the new queen, placing her in a position to fulfill God's plans for her life and intercede for the Jews when a malicious assistant to the king sends out a decree to kill all Jews.
Such a Time as This is a fascinating retelling of a well-known story that brings the characters of the Book of Esther to life as never before. It is written in a way that is accessible and easy to understand even for people not familiar with the Biblical tale.
Author Rebecca Velez is currently working on a sequel to Such a Time as This, and although it will obviously be based on free speculation rather than a true story, I am already looking forward to reading more of her work.
Armchair Interviews says: Unique look at Esther's story.
Paula Buermele "thedreamcatchertour.com"
The concept of the beauty pageant is ancient and Rebecca Velez uses the one biblical Esther found herself in to fashion an entertaining behind-the-scenes view. Unlike contestants in the modern world, Esther was an unwilling participant. Her role, however, proved to be instrumental in preserving her Jewish race.
Told from a Christian context, the character of Esther as written in this novel embodies the traits found in Galatians 5:22, "But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." The story begins with Esther risking danger to run an errand for her frail grandmother - "She never would have left the house if sofa had not needed the medicinal herbs." Her life abruptly changes from anticipating a traditional marriage to adjusting to life in a harem and she uses her strength of character to grow into an excellent choice for queen of ancient Persia.
While many scenes give the reader insight into life in the women's quarters, Velez also draws interesting portraits of the men as evil plans steal into the sunlight and shadows of the palace compound and weave a black thread through the tapestry of this tale.
As the women in the harem compete with one another for the king's attention, friendships are formed and enemies are made. Comparisons of physical beauty, attitude and motivation give rise to jealousies and surprising acts of kindness among the girls. Isis, disbelieving that King Xerxes chose Esther over her, "began strutting around the palace sporting a necklace disconcerting like the one the king had given Esther when he announced her as the next queen." It was surprising to me that even after Esther was crowned as the queen she had to continue to work at staying in the king's favor. Her father, Mordecai, reminded her of this, "Xerxes' moods change constantly, Little Star. We both know this. He favors one and then another."
Yet Esther grew into her power gracefully and used it to benefit others in the harem, as illustrated by her gift of a horse to one who had befriended her during a time of vicious gossip. The relationships among the harem women and Esther rang true to my ears.
The power of the story comes through when Esther faces a difficult choice, a choice of attempting to save her people at the risk of losing her own life. I will let the reader experience the emotions as Esther and her father, Mordecai, work through this decision.
Today's beauty contests crown a winner for a year. After reading Such A Time As This I realize that possessing physical beauty is merely an opportunity with potential. How a beautiful woman develops that opportunity is the test of her inner beauty. Esther, as imagined by Rebecca Velez, serves as a good model.
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