Reviewed by Susan E. Richardson

Best-selling author Angela Hunt begins a new Biblical fiction series with Esther: Royal Beauty. Hunt combines the Biblical story with in-depth research, giving the familiar story freshness. Writing fiction about Biblical characters can be challenging, but the author always considers Scripture the final authority.

We meet Hadassah in Susa, one of Persia’s capital cities, where she lives with her uncle Mordecai and his wife, Miriam. Her relatives raise her in the Jewish faith but she sees the entrancing differences in the lives of others. From her friendship with a Persian girl to her own hopes and dreams, she lives between the two worlds.

While Hadassah grows up, Harbonah, one of the king’s servants, becomes our eyes and ears inside the Persian court. Through him we get to know Xerxes, who will change Hadassah’s life. The two stories move along beside each other with Mordecai as the primary connection point until the king’s edict brings Hadassah to the palace and her new name: Esther.

Through the story, readers experience Persian history and learn details of Persian law and justice that may be unfamiliar. Xerxes becomes a complex person, not just a name, as does Vashti and others Scripture mentions.

If you enjoy historical fiction or Biblical fiction, more specifically, you can’t go wrong with Esther. Book groups will find discussion questions at the end of the book, and Hunt provides an author’s note to answer questions a reader may have. Forthcoming titles in the “Dangerous Beauty” series include Bathsheba and Delilah.