Review: The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

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The Book of Esther by Emily Barton

Publisher: The Duggan Books

Author Bio

Book Info

Synopsis: (from Goodreads):

Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.

After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania’s disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.

Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.

The Book of Esther is a profound saga of war, technology, mysticism, power, and faith.

Rating: 4 Stars

My Review:

Wow, this book was epic.  Talk about dense and heroic, this book has it all.  Feminism, religious beliefs, sexuality, mysticism, adventure, fantasy, family strife, slavery, and steampunk all rolled into one amazing book.  This is an alternative reality of WW2, where the Khazars are still in power and women are not allowed to read or become educated.  This is the story of Esther, who decides that it is her destiny to save the Jewish population from Germania and the only way she sees to do this is to become a man.  She travels, with her slave brother, to the Kabbalists, to request that she be made a man so that she can save her country and her people.

What I Loved About The Book of Esther:

  • Feminism and religion and how one girl decides that just because she is a woman in a patriarchal society, she can still be who she is and save her people.
  • Loved the questions about faith, existence, and what it means to have a conscience, to pray, or to “be alive” (ie: Golems and prayer).
  • The sexual growth of Esther and her questions of love and desire.
  • The questions of slavery and how Esther comes to view her brother, Itakh, who is a slave in her father’s house.
  • The questions of faith and religion, especially since I am not very familiar with the Jewish faith.

What I Didn’t Like so Much:

  • The book is very dense and it took me a long time to finish the book.
  • You really needed the glossary in the beginning to understand what is going on as there is a lot of Hebrew words used.

Overall, this book is definitely worth a read.  Despite the density of the book, it was never boring or slow.  It was a book that you cannot just skim through.  You will want to read every single word on every single page so that you don’t miss a thing.  Great book!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.