Enchantress by Maggie Anton
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Formats: eBook, Paperback
Series: Rav Hisda's Daughter
Genre: Historical Fiction/Historical Fantasy
Source: This book was given to me by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.
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.
My Review: Enchantress tells the story of Hisdadukh, the daughter of Rav Hisda, who is frequently mentioned in The Talmud. Hisdadukh is a pupil under an enchantress called Em. Under her teaching, Hisdadukh is responsible for ridding out the demons who have taunted the people in her town. While she faces the demons and an evil sorceress she forms a budding relationship with a Jewish scholar, Rava. Based off of the characters in Talmud, this book shows us the Jewish history and culture.
I have never read The Talmud nor am I familiar with it. Yet I know that second to The Torah, it is very important in Jewish religion. Because of this the story was very confusing, and I had to do some research of The Talmud to understand this novel. While the book can be a bit confusing and complicated, it is a very well-written and captivating story. Right on the first page, you are already drawn in to the world of fourth-century Babylon. Even though there is a lot of discussion on Jewish debates on Jewish customs that tend to be a bit dull to the reader, you get a taste of the Jewish customs and beliefs.
I really like the protagonist, Hisdadukh. She is strong, observant, and intelligent. She also has feelings with her love for Rava, who is already married. My favorite interactions between Rava and Hisdadukh was when she contradicts Rava in her interpretation of The Torah study. She also has great power, and she uses her spells to expel the evil in their community. She is brave and doesn’t judge for she has no problem in befriending an outcast in society. Yet she is also emotionally-damaged for before the novel begins, she lost her first husband and child, and tries to cope with her loss.
Overall, this story is full of magic, loss, friendship, and love. The message of the book is that there is always hope. The characters are well-developed, and it has a luscious setting. While the book starts out as confusing, over time it becomes an enjoyable read. I recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, fantastical tales, and Jewish culture. Most of all, this novel is an encouraging story of courage, perseverance, hope, and the strength of love.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Praise for Apprentice (Rav Hisda's Daughter: Book I)
"A lushly detailed look into a fascinatingly unknown time and culture, a tale of Talmud, sorcery, and a most engaging heroine!" -Diana Gabaldon, author of the bestselling Outlander series
Anton, the author of the acclaimed Rashi's Daughters' trilogy, has penned her best book to date. Using her extensive knowledge of the Talmud and other historical Jewish writings, she immersed herself in the tractates to uncover a marvelous heroine for this historical novelÖ Complex discussions of Jewish law and tradition as well as detailed description of the culture and customs of the times enhance truly wonderful storytelling. VERDICT This absorbing novel should be on everyone's historical fiction reading list."-Library Journal (starred review)
"Fascinating reading await those who dive into the vividly depicted world of Babylonian Jewry. Anton succeeds brilliantly in drawing us into the formative period leading up to the Talmud. What we have is the work of a master craftswoman set upon repairing a major gap in Jewish literature"-Philadelphia Jewish Voice
"Rav Hisda's Daughter provides a wealth of historical detail about Jewish life in Babylon and Israel in the 3rd century CE. It depicts the daily life and coming of age of a prominent rabbi's daughter rather than propelling its reader through a traditional arc of action with a crisis and resolution. Its interest lies in its portrayal of the sorcery, incantations, and women's customs in this exotic, faraway period of time and place, sometimes against the backdrop of war."Historical Novel Society
Praise for the Rashi's Daughters Trilogy
"Anton delivers a tour de force . . . [Readers] will fly through the pages and come away wishing for more." -Library Journal (starred review)
"A compelling combination of drama, suspense, and romance."-Lilith magazine
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About the 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. 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 trilogy of historical novels about them was born.
After the success of Rashi's DaughtersAnton started researching the lives of women in 4th-century Babylonia, where the Talmud was being created. Surprised by the prevalence of sorcery among rabbinic families, she wrote Rav Hisda's Daughter: Bk 1 - Apprentice,which was a 2012 National Jewish Book Award Fiction finalist and a Library Journal pick for Best Historical Fiction.
For more information please visit Maggie Anton's website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.