Author Jennifer Elizabeth Daigle recently relocated from Texas and Louisiana to Asheville, bringing with her not just a moving van but an entire new world. It’s not everyone who travels with a personal country (Daigle’s even comes with maps); but the Caligny Empire is Daigle’s creation and can be reached only in the pages of her self-published book, The Knowing (Xlibris, 2008).
Daigle is not the first author to set her novel in a fictional realm: Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin depicts the Kesh people of futuristic Northern California following an apocalypse; J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings takes place in Middle Earth. Both of these books share a key point of fantasy fiction: settings of either a Medieval or futuristic land.
Daigle’s novel is, in a way, both. Characters seem Arthurian, but could be post-apocalyptic. Cities smack of dark ages England; in the opening chapter the reader is introduced to pick pockets, an herbalist and a malevolent character referred to as “This demon known as Damon.”
The book’s main character, Tavedaim, is a sassy teen seemingly torn between the criminal world of the pickpockets to whom she has aligned herself, and the straight-and-narrow world of her guardian, the healer. However, Taved’s choices are made for her when her guardian disappears and Taved finds herself in the dubious protection of certain mysterious underworld personalities as well as a young wizard who lives in a remote forest.
The Knowing manages to be both addictive and confusing. Readers new to fantasy fiction will need to take their time; there is a lot of detail at the book’s outset and very little is based on ordinary 21st century life. Places, names, occupations and customs all take some getting used to, and Daigle’s story is complexly detailed. That said, the action is quick and the sense of danger both nebulous and present so it’s easy to get wrapped up in the drama. This is no fluffy beach read, but for the dark wintery days ahead it may be the perfect engrossing novel to savor by the fireplace.
—Alli Marshall, A&E reporter