Hey guys! Today I get to bring you a review of an awesome piece of literary fiction. When I first saw the blurb for this novel, I was instantly intrigued. Set in Eastern Europe in 1942, this novel follows Esther, the eldest daughter in a traditional Jewish home. The novel is set in the Khazar Kaganate. This was a real place, a nation that flourished from around 650 to 970. In this novel however, the Khazar Kaganate never fell, and it is still a key player in Eastern Europe.
The political heads of Khazar have been expecting for some time that Germany would invade; refugees have been fleeing to their borders for years now. But when the invasion begins in earnest they are terribly unprepared, and the leaders of the country are in disarray. Esther, who has seen the invasion and knows just what the Germans will do to them, pleas to be allowed to fight. But as a member of a traditional family, Esther is not permitted to join the force. But she has one last trick up her sleeve- the Kabbalists, who are rumored to be able to change women into men.
This book was fascinating. I LOVE revisionist history stories as a thought experiment. Considering what would have happened if tables had been turned, if wars had been fought differently, if certain places still existed. This was a thrilling piece of revisionist history, combining the rich history of the Khazar Kaganate with the conflict of World War II was an excellent choice for the plot of the book.
The world that Emily Barton creates in this novel was exquisitely imagined. She takes all of the rich culture associated with the Khazar Kaganate and combines it with an awesome steampunk aesthetic. I mean, Esther rides a mechanical horse! How badass is that?! The details of this book created such a strong view of the world; the food, the architecture, the culture. I loved the juxtaposition of the old and the new.
Esther was an incredible heroine. She definitely makes into my list of favorite female leads. She was smart, she was funny, and she was so passionate about her people and her culture. It was truly amazing to see all of the conflicts she came up against, and how she kept going, no matter what.
Overall, this book felt truly original and richly imagined. I loved the characters, and the description of the world made me want to live there forever. If you’re looking for a twist on historical fiction with a badass lead, this is the book for you. You can get it here The Book of Esther: A Novel
Final rating- 4.5/5
Thanks for reading my review, and until next time, happy reading 🙂