Rewriting history. It’s a tempting option that opens a floodgate of subsequent changes that would occur based upon your original change. The Book of Esther by Emily Barton re-envisions Hitler’s conquest and mass genocide across Europe.
Esther is the daughter Khazaria’s chief policy adviser and has a keen interest in military strategies despite being female and forbidden to assist in that facet of life. While in the Jewish refugee camps outside her home city of Atil, Esther sees planes on a reconnaissance mission from their Germania enemy. Wanting to help protect her home and the people of her nation from the impending attack, Esther offers to aid her father and the military in their battle strategy. But when the men scoff at her, she heads out to find the rumored group of Kabbalists who wield some magic in the hopes that they can turn her into a man so she can fight to protect her home.
While I was incredibly intrigued by the premise of the story, perhaps I got my hopes up too high as I was left quite disappointed while I read this. There is too much that is trying to be incorporated within the narrative, coming at the expense of more adequate development in world building and fully realizing each aspect of the tale brought forward. It’s a revisionist history with elements of steampunk-esque machines, but there’s the utter sense of anachronism due to varying technologies and no explicit time period established. The exact timing is not mentioned, merely alluding to World War II in our universe’s history (unless you read the synopsis of the book, which you shouldn’t have to do to get a clear sense of the time period), and with the various methods of communication and living presented throughout the narrative, it was incredibly difficult to place the era of events (there were both carrier pigeons and telephones-why have both? Or if you do, offer an adequate explanation to the coexistence of these things). In the end, I might have been entertained, but it was marred by my frustration.
Overall, I’d give it a 2 out of 5 stars.
*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.