Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (2 points)
In Star of Persia, Smith retells the familiar Bible story of Esther in an everyday fashion that contains no conspicuous errors, nor does it contain anything particularly groundbreaking. King Xerxes is a mighty king with ample political power and influence. Though he has two wives and a full harem of concubines, he loves only Vashti. Vashti struggled to have children for some time, and finally succeeded in giving Xerxes a son. However, because Vashti is only half-Persian, her rival’s son will be his successor. One evening when he has been drinking too much wine, Xerxes gives in to social pressure and summons Vashti to appear before his nobles. She refuses, a fact which earns her eternal banishment from the kingdom. King Xerxes regrets his decision the following day and longs for someone to fill the empty space Vashti left behind. Hadassah grew up as an orphan in her cousin Mordecai’s family after her parents died when she was very young. Mordecai’s wife Levia has been like a mother to Hadassah, and though she is not close to his other children, her life has been pleasant overall. As Hadassah grows older, she begins to take on more household responsiblities in preparation for her eventual betrothal to an eligible male in their community. One day Levia suddenly falls ill, and despite Hadassah’s vigilant care, she does not recover. Following Levia’s death, Hadassah and Mordecai are left shocked and saddened. Hadassah is even more confused about her future when her best friend Jola is betrothed to a young man she liked. When King Xerxes issues a decree that will change the lives of all the unmarried women in the empire, Hadassah becomes Esther, and has her future decided for her. Star of Persia’s plot moves along at a steady pace and contains no continuity errors, but sometimes it fails to hold the attention. Additionally, it contains one historical error. (spoiler) The prologue depicts a young Hadassah visiting Queen Vashti on palace grounds at night. It is very unlikely that a peasant girl would be allowed to wander through the palace gate, let alone speak to and touch the queen. In contrast, the storyline follows the Biblical narrative almost to the letter, but tends to romanticize Esther and Xerxes’ relationship, and contains very little depth. Therefore, Smith earns an average rating in this section for writing a story that is fine at face value, but failing include any content that is especially memorable or unique.
Character Development (2 points)
Similarly, the character development in this novel is pretty good, but not great. Esther is the weakest character – not a good fact when she is the protagonist. She is continually portrayed as an almost perfect character who displays almost angelic obedience and complacency even as a child. What we need here is a little spirit and rebellion! Esther was human after all, and it must have taken some kind of gumption to appear before Xerxes uninvited. The girl had spirit I tell ya! Anyway, Xerxes is a slightly better character than Esther because he makes irrational decisions he later regrets and learns from these bad choices. Haman is a partially developed antagonist who lacks motive for his actions. The other characters, like Moredecai and Levia, are fairly good minor characters who have a clear role in the story. Because of this mix of good and bad, Smith receives an average score here.
Creativity & Originality (0 points)
Finally, there is nothing particularly original or creative about Smith’s depiction, so this section is awarded zero points. Likewise, we do not believe that this novel contains content that should be made into a film or series. There have been many unsuccessful portrayals of Esther in film thus far, and as of now we do not expect this to change. It would be pointless for someone to try again with incomplete content. If someone attempts to make another movie or series about Esther, they will need to avoid making it a romance, think outside the box, and depict the historical setting as it actually was.
Wish List Rating: 4 out of 10 points