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.
This was a difficult novel for me to finish. It shouldn’t take me over 2 weeks to finish a novel. I received an ARC through First to Read from Penguin Group. It is actually the sequel to Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery, but I did not know that until I finished reading and looked up other reviews on Goodreads.
I will start on a positive note and say it was interesting to learn about Talmudic lore and the history of Babylonia. The story is incredibly well researched.
However, I found at times the story would get weighted down with too many discussions or debats on Jeweish laws and customs, especially when the topic was not relevant to the central story. After a while I began to skim those parts.
There was much potential but I felt the focus of the story was slow and often had no direction.
Also I feel the pacing can be summed up well through this quote from page 362:
“That year in Pumbedita before Rava and I became betrothed had felt interminable, yet now it seemed that no sooner did we dismantle one year’s sukkah than it was time to build another.”
Slow beginning with the end often being described in a summary year to year.
There was so much time spent on Hisdadukh and Rava’s courtship and not enough on her sorcery. Training with her mother would have been cool to see. I mean the title is Enchantress after all.
The end battle was anti-climatic because the rivalry with the evil sorceress, Zafnat, was incredibly underdeveloped. Her presence in the story happens less than a handful of times.
The family dynamics were well developed. There were some humorous parts as well.
I did like Hisdadukh very much. She was strong, intelligent, could hold her own in difficult situations and was independently wealthy from her husband. I also liked that Rava was a supportive husband. He had his issues with his ego, and sometimes I would roll my eyes, but he wasn’t a bad guy. They were two people I would root for.
Ultimately, it was too slow to develop and I often felt uninspired to continue. I kept waiting for Zafnat to evoke the Evil Eye and create many conflicts directly toward Hisdadukh. (Even Ashmedai the Demon King was boring.) Instead it felt very much like reading a day by day, or a year by year diary.
2.5 out of 5 Incantation Bowls.
I do like the book cover. I think it is so pretty.