Roseanna White has done it again. She's made my laundry pile up while I ignored it and read her novel.
When I read her book, A Stray Drop of Blood, I was impressed by her command of historical detail, lush writing, and epic storytelling. Her latest release, Jewel of Persia, also delivers a multi-faceted gem of a tale, set in Persia during the time of Esther.
A chance encounter with the “king of kings,” Xerxes, forces Kasia, a Jewish maiden, into his harem. As his concubine, she becomes the favorite of all his wives, and unlike the other women of his house, she loves the man beneath the crown.
While war rages against the Greeks, enemies lurk within Xerxes’ household, and there are those who seek every advantage to destroy Kasia and her people. She determines to trust Jehovah for her marriage, her life, and the safety of the Jews, despite being despised and envied by almost everyone around her—unaware of the spiritual battle engaged all around her. When her childhood friend, Esther, comes to the palace as a candidate to be Xerxes’ new queen, Kasia sees God’s hand, but others, such as Haman and Amestris, Xerxes’ deposed queen, will stop at nothing to destroy the Jews.
Based on the biblical account of Esther and Heroditus’ Histories, Jewel of Persia is a rich blend of fiction and fact, woven together to create a compelling and fast-paced story of love, war, and God’s hand in history. The stories of historical figures, such as Esther, Mordecai, and Xerxes, are imaginatively enriched by the fictional characters, like Kasia, a spunky heroine of righteousness and intelligence.
Xerxes is a magnetic character: he’s dashing, witty, and loves Kasia with all his heart. But as king of Persia, he’s also ruthless at times, and his “wealth is measured in sons and wives as well as gold.” He does his husbandly duty well, siring children with wives, concubines, and slaves alike, which I admit didn’t always feel comfortable to 21st-century-me. However, Xerxes (the character as well as the king) observed the cultural norm for ancient rulers of the Middle East, and even David, the king of Israel who was a man after God’s own heart, had numerous wives. His son Solomon had hundreds more.
While Xerxes is the main male protagonist, I would argue that he isn’t the true hero of the story. Jehovah is. Kasia and Esther are the heroines, and the damsel in distress is Israel. God’s core objective (both in the novel and the biblical account) is to save His people. God’s authority, might, and love for His children is evident throughout the novel, triumphant over the powers of darkness which seek to destroy God’s chosen. Spiritual warfare plays a large role in this story, and reading about Kasia’s and Modecai’s faithfulness in prayer urged me to be more diligent in my own prayer life.
Likewise, Kasia’s struggle to serve Jehovah wherever and however He wills may be fictional, but the emotional portrayal is realistic; contentment is a lesson I often grapple with, and I found inspiration in her obedience to God. The characters’ emotional and spiritual journeys are relatable and encouraging, as they grapple with grief, betrayal, jealousy, and loss. In exploring these timeless themes, White brings the past to life, enriched by the weaving throughout of fascinating historical details.
While it’s never described graphically, another major theme is sexuality, depicted from the perspective of blessing within marriage, and painful consequences if it’s misused, as is shown in two separate cases of adultery. Parents may wish to read first.
Once again, Roseanna White delivers a rich story that encourages as much as it entertains. Even though I knew how the story ends, I couldn't put it down. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys Bible-set fiction and novels with elements of spiritual warfare.
Visit Roseanna at her website, and contact her for significant discounts on group purchases for book clubs. Jewel of Persia is also available on Amazon.
A copy of this novel was provided by the publisher for the purpose of my review. No favorable review was expected or required.