Tuesday, October 28, 2014

G429 Book Review of Rav Hisda's Daughter Enchantress by Maggie Anton

Name of Book: Rav Hisda's Daughter Enchantress

Author: Maggie Anton

ISBN: 978-0-452-29822-4

Publisher: Plume

Part of a Series: Rav Hisda's Daughter Apprentice is the prequel

Type of book: Babylonia, Judaism, 299-359, magic, building of laws, communities, demons, spells, enchanting, family life, secrets, marriage, Jewish holidays, slave owners, Jewish life, Arabian life, christians gaining power, Rome

Year it was published: 2014


Fantastic tales of demons and the Evil Eye, magical incantations, and powerful attractions abound in Enchantress, a novel that weaves together Talmudic lore, ancient Jewish magic, and a timeless love story set in fourth-century Babylonia.  

One of the most powerful practitioners of these mysterious arts is Rav Hisda’s daughter, whose innate awareness allows her to possess the skills men lack. With her husband, Rava--whose arcane knowledge of the secret Torah enables him to create a "man” out of earth and to resurrect another rabbi from death--the two brave an evil sorceress, Ashmedai the Demon King, and even the Angel of Death in their quest to safeguard their people, even while putting their romance at risk.

The author of the acclaimed Rashi’s Daughters series and the award-winning Rav Hisda’s Daughter: Apprentice has conjured literary magic in the land where "abracadabra” originated.  Based on five years of research and populated with characters from the Talmud, Enchantress brings a pivotal era of Jewish and Christian history to life from the perspective of a courageous and passionate woman.


There are a lot of characters, but they are very memorable and individual: Hisdadukh is the main character, a sorceress in training with a lot of power and willingness to learn whatever she can to help her husband succeed: Rava used to be Hisdadukh's husband's rival for many things, and is best described as arrogant in the first book, although he did change in the book and is very encouraging towards Hisdadukh and helping her keep independence. He also has his own studies and secrets throughout the book. He also enjoys debating with Hisdadukh on different laws. Other characters include Abaye, Rava's friend and study partner who suffers from a curse as well as Em the woman who teaches Hisdadukh healing herbs, then her mother who has her own secrets and so forth.


Greatness can be achieved late in life


The story is in first person narrative from Hisdadukh's point of view and picks up immediately from the ending of the first book. In the previous book, I have to admit that I detested Abba because of his arrogance and the fact he is not able to let Hisdadukh live in peace with her first husband, Rami. But as I spent more time with Abba/Rava in this story, I began to actually root for him and Hisdadukh to be together. I also enjoyed learning about Judaism and the issues that were important during the time, whether or not Rabbis were qualified to be experts on Jewish lives. I do wish that the romance angle for Hisdadukh and Rava could be worked on a little more, as well as the family relationships between Rava and his sons, but besides that, really loved the story.

Author Information:
(from goodreads.com)
in Los Angeles, CA, The United States



Historical Fiction, Religion & Spirituality, Women & Gender Studies

Talmud study

member since
June 2008

About this author:

Maggie Anton was born Margaret Antonofsky in Los Angeles, California. Raised in a secular, socialist household, she reached adulthood with little knowledge of her Jewish religion. All that changed when David Parkhurst, who was to become her husband, entered her life, and they both discovered Judaism as adults. That was the start of a lifetime of Jewish education, synagogue involvement, and ritual observance. In 2006, Anton retired from being a clinical chemist in Kaiser Permanente's Biochemical Genetics Laboratory to become a fulltime writer.

In the early 1990's, Anton learned about a women's Talmud class taught by Rachel Adler, now a professor at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles. Nearly every Wednesday for five years, she and about six other women met around Rachel's dining room table to study Tractate Berachot.

In 1997, as her children Emily and Ari left the house and her mother was declining with Alzheimer's Disease, Anton sought new interests. She became intrigued with the idea that Rashi, one of the greatest Jewish scholars ever, had no sons, only three daughters. Slowly but surely, she began to research the family and the time in which they lived. Much was written about Rashi, but almost nothing of the daughters, except their names and the names of their husbands. Legend has it that Rashi's daughters were learned in a time when women were traditionally forbidden to study the sacred texts. These forgotten women seemed ripe for rediscovery, and the idea of a book about them was born.


Personally for me, finishing this book is a very bittersweet moment: I didn't want to say goodbye, didn't want for the world where Jews could be where they can be without persecution to disappear into the shadows of history, yet upon finishing the last page, that is what happened. The story was finished in 4th century, shortly before christians gained power and took full advantage of it, and after the story has ended, the Jewish world was broken and crumbled, forced persecutions and proselytism began occurring, moving up to today. In the book itself, I had trouble understanding the Talmudic arguments and ideas, but other than that, the story is very engaging and addictive. And yes, it is necessary to read the previous book before this one. I don't think the book can be considered as a stand-alone.  Also, just like the prequel, the story does come with a glossary, a map and character list of various characters.

I would like to thank the publisher for the chance to read and review this book

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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