DNF Review: Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter, Maggie Anton (2014)

October 3rd, 2014 12:38 pm by Kelly Garbato

(Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review through Goodreads’ First Reads program.)

DNF (did not finish) at 18% / 66 pages.

I took a chance on Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter in a Goodreads giveaway; unfortunately, it’s just not for me. While Anton does a commendable job of explaining ancient Jewish beliefs, customs, and phrases for the reader, I often found myself lost and confused. I also didn’t realize that this is the second book in Anton’s Rav Hisda’s Daughter series, which is slated to be a trilogy. It’s hard to say whether reading the books in order would have drastically affected my enjoyment of Enchantress – which, for what it’s worth, I think can also be read as a standalone story.

I might have been willing to power through had I found any of the characters even remotely interesting or engaging – but, as it turned out, the only character for whom I could muster up any sort of feelings was Rava, who is a just an all-around shitty human being: sexist, arrogant, presumptuous, entitled, and narcissistic. And that’s just in the first 66 pages.

Seeing as he’s one half of the book’s power couple, this is especially problematic. Rava and Hisdadukh (the titular daughter of Rav Hisda) aren’t together at the beginning of the novel, but we know from the book’s synopsis that their romance forms the backbone of the story. I cannot think of two people I want to see get together less than Rava and Hisdadukh. Or Rava and any human woman with a pulse.

To cite just one example (which manages to perfectly encapsulate so many of his character flaws): As a kid, Rava studied under Hisdadukh’s father Rav Hisda. At one point, Rav Hisda asked his daughter – in front of the class (no pressure there!) – who she’d rather marry: Rava or Rami. She chose them both, to which Rava quipped that he’d be the last husband. That day began Hisdadukh’s betrothal to Rami because, you know, kids are notoriously adept at making sound, life-altering decisions.

Fast-forward 10, 15, 20 years; Hisdadukh is a widow, and Rava is trapped in an unhappy marriage to an “unloved, barren wife.” (Which, incidentally, excuses his odious behavior. Men are responsible for their successes, while women are to blame for their failures. Got it!) While Hisdadukh is out of town and thus unreachable, Rava approaches Hisdadukh’s father to request her hand in marriage. Rav Hisda agrees because, hey, Hisdadukh said she desired to marry Rava all those years ago! When Hisdadukh returns and learns of the arrangement, she demands/begs him to break it off, which offends and angers Rava.

Even though: a) Rava will remain married to his first wife, Choran, who will maintain all the power and prestige of a first wife; b) Hisdadukh’s primary use is to be as a baby machine; c) everyone, including Hisdadukh herself, suspects Rava of murdering Rami.

And yet Rava’s shocked and insulted that his sneaky little play was rejected by Hisdadukh! (Who, by the beginning of Enchantress, is actively courting him. Talk about your head-scratchers!) Imagine that!

So yeah. Shitty human being. No like.

Granted, these odious attitudes and practices may all be historically accurate, but this knowledge does little to enhance my enjoyment of the book. If anything, it makes me like it even less.

That said, those who have an interest in and working knowledge of the Talmud are likely to have a greater appreciation of Enchantress. That just isn’t me.

(This review is also available on Library Thing and Goodreads. Please click through and vote it helpful if you’re so inclined!)

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One Response to “DNF Review: Enchantress: A Novel of Rav Hisda’s Daughter, Maggie Anton (2014)”

  1. Cadry Says:

    Wow, it sounds awful! I can see why you were only able to power through 66 pages. Ugh.

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