A Review of “The Girl Who Could See”

The Girl Who Could See by Kara Swanson is a science fiction thriller with a thread of romance. While aimed at new adults (ages 18-25), it’s also suitable for mature teens.

Nineteen-year-old Fern Johnson struggles to hold a job and ignore her imaginary friend. She only wants to care for her niece, and shield her from the same childhood—the same trauma—Fern suffered. A trauma Fern can’t remember, but that brought Tristian, her imaginary friend, into her life.

In The Girl Who Could See, a contemporary sci-fi, Kara Swanson weaves a tale layered in action, mystery, and suspense with hauntingly beautiful prose. Exciting and, at times, heart wrenching, this novella explores the themes of love and sacrifice. Fans who enjoy a blend of crime-thriller suspense, science, and heart will enjoy The Girl Who Could See. Highly recommended.

And, if you prefer audiobooks, the narrator does an excellent job of reading.

The Girl Who Could See is available on Amazon.

Content Guide

Romance (low)
Flirting and a kiss.

Violence (low)
Mention of blood, bleeding, and violence. Nothing graphic or detailed.

Language (low)
Two instances of the word stupid.

Sensitive Topics (low)
Fern comes from a broken home. Mention of drugs, trafficking, and abduction. Nothing graphic or detailed.

About The Girl Who Could See

All her life Fern has been told she is blind to reality—but, what if she is the only one who can truly see?

Fern Johnson is crazy. At least, that’s what the doctors have claimed since her childhood. Now nineteen, and one step away from a psych ward, Fern struggles to survive in bustling Los Angeles. Desperate to appear normal, she represses the young man flickering at the edge of her awareness—a blond warrior only she can see. 

Tristan was Fern’s childhood imaginary hero, saving her from monsters under her bed and outside her walls. As she grew up and his secret world continued to bleed into hers, however, it only caused catastrophe. But, when the city is rocked by the unexplainable, Fern is forced to consider the possibility that this young man is not a hallucination after all—and that the creature who decimated his world may be coming for hers.

Visit Amazon for more details and reviews.

About Kara Swanson

As the daughter of missionaries, KARA SWANSON spent her childhood in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. Able to relate to characters dropped into a unique new world, she fell in love with the fantasy genre and was soon penning stories herself.

​Shortly after moving stateside, Kara received the Mount Hermon Conference “Most Promising Teen Writer Award.” Her latest release, The Girl Who Could See, was a finalist for a 2018 INSPY Award and won the 2018 Parable Award. 

Swanson is on the faculty for the Young Writer’s Workshopalongside best-selling authors Brett Harris and Jaquelle Crowe, where they guide thousands of young writers. She is represented by Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency and has been on staff for the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conferenceand the Realm Makers Writers’ Conference. She works with many authors and editors as a communications and marketing assistant, as well as offering critique and proofreading services. She has had articles published in online and print magazines, including Brio MagazineThe Rebelution.com and Encounter Magazine

Kara is passionate about crafting stories of light shattering darkness, forming sincere connections with readers, and becoming best friends with a mermaid—though not necessarily in that order.

​Kara loves to hang out with other book nerds and chocolate enthusiasts on Instagram (@karaswansonauthor), Twitter (@kswansonbooks), and on her website (karaswanson.com).

Enchanted by Laurie Lucking’s Common

Laurie Lucking, the author of the lovely fantasy adventure Common, is here to give us an inside look into the world building featured in the story. Also, yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Common‘s release date!

Happy Book Birthday, Laurie, and thanks for coming on the blog. For those who aren’t familiar with Common, tell us a bit about it.

Only one person knows of the plot against the royal family and cares enough to try to stop it—the servant girl they banished.

Leah spends her days scrubbing floors, polishing silver, and meekly curtsying to nobility. Nothing distinguishes her from the other commoners serving at the palace, except her red hair.

And her secret friendship with Rafe, the Crown Prince of Imperia.

But Leah’s safe, ordinary world begins to splinter. Rafe’s parents announce his betrothal to a foreign princess, and she unearths a plot to overthrow the royal family. When she reports it without proof, her life shatters completely when the queen banishes her for treason.

Harbored by an unusual group of nuns, Leah must secure Rafe’s safety before it’s too late. But her quest reveals a villain far more sinister than an ambitious nobleman with his eye on the throne.

Can a common maidservant summon the courage to fight for her dearest friend?

Common is a young adult fantasy story recommended for pre-teens, teens, and adults who enjoy fairy tales with happily-ever-afters. :)

I love that the heroine is a maidservant. What sort of places will we travel to in the story?

Most of the story takes place at the royal palace of Imperia, Dorendyn Castle, which is a large structure with white marble, tall windows, wide arches, and beautiful gardens. When my protagonist, Leah, is forced to travel to Trellich later in the book, she finds the mountainous landscape to be beautiful but desolate. Glonsel Palace, the home of the Trellan royal family, is a much darker building encased by a wall and topped with pointed turrets.

Castles, gardens, and mountains–sounds beautiful. How are Imperia and Trellich different from our world?

On the surface, Imperia and Trellich don’t look too different from a historical version of our world. The plants and landscape have some slight variations, but overall I think most of us would feel like we’d been transported back in time rather than to a fantasy world. But the differences show up during the course of the story – dark magic exists in these countries, though the sorcerers have been driven into hiding. Also hidden away in seclusion are women who can fight that dark magic with a power of their own derived from the Luminate.

The nuns–those women hidden away in seclusion–they were some of my favorite characters. What inspired you to write about nuns with mystical powers?

As for the nuns, I knew a sorcerer would be involved in the plot against the royal family, and I needed someone who would be powerful enough to fight against him. But I wanted their power source to come from God. I’ve always enjoyed studying the saints, and there was a particular group of saints called mystics who lived in seclusion to achieve a greater union with God. At the height of such union, they might receive a vision or revelation. Using my creative license as a fantasy writer, I took the idea one step further and made the mystics in my story capable of calling on their amplified union with God to perform mighty deeds in His name, thus creating sorcerer-fighting nuns!

Learn more about the real-world inspiration of the mystics on MysticsoftheChurch.com.

I never knew there were a group of saints known as mystics. That’s awesome! So what makes Common‘s world unique?

The most unique aspects of the world of Common come from its history and customs. Imperia and Trellich have long been at odds with each other, making for a tense relationship between the royal families and a tightly-guarded border. The Gravedigger’s Bounty, an illness that spread quickly through Trellich and caused Imperia to close its borders completely for a time, only put further strain on their relations. While the royalty of each country have the opportunity to take pleasure in many lavish banquets and parties, the servants of Imperia look forward to the Peasantry Festival each year, when they’re allowed to take a day off to peruse food and goods vendors and enjoy music and dancing.

Peasantry Festival (inspiration)

Every story world starts with an idea. What idea inspired the story of Common?

My world was really inspired by the story itself – as my story grew, the characters’ world developed around them. I love fairy tales, so I immediately pictured my story taking place in world with a quintessential fairy tale feel. And back in college I had the opportunity to spend a semester in England, so my travels there definitely inspired a lot of how I pictured the landscape and castles in Common.

It sounds like you did a lot of research in writing this story. I know you have plans for a second book in this series, but can you share with us some of the research that went into this book?

Most of my research involved historical details about carriages, clothing, building materials, etc. Since Leah embarks on a fair amount of travel during the latter portion of the book, I looked into how much ground can reasonably be covered in a day on foot, on horseback, and via carriage. I also did some research into the mystics of the early Christian church, since they were my inspiration for the unusual group of nuns that provide shelter and aid to Leah. I wish I could say more, but…spoilers! :)

I understand. Definitely, don’t want to spoil the story for anyone else. :)

Grab a copy of Common at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Kobo, or iTunes.

I’m so glad you stopped by to talk about Common and the wonderful influences that went into building your fairy tale world. Thanks, Laurie!

About Laurie Lucking

An avid reader practically since birth, Laurie Lucking discovered her passion for writing after leaving her career as an attorney to become a stay-at-home mom. When she gets a break from playing superheroes and driving windup cars, she writes young adult fantasy with a strong thread of fairy tale romance. Her debut novel, Common, won third place in the Christian Women Reader’s Club Literary Lighthouse Awards, and her short story, “Threshold,” was published in a Fellowship of Fantasy anthology titled Mythical Doorways. Laurie is the Secretary of her local ACFW chapter and a co-founder of Lands Uncharted, a blog for fans of clean young adult fantasy and science fiction. A Midwestern girl through and through, she currently lives in Minnesota with her husband and two young sons. Find out more by visiting www.laurielucking.com.

Connect with Laurie through her website, or follow her on Facebook and Instagram. You can also find her on Lands Uncharted talking about books and the business of being an author.

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The Firebrand Chronicles Forged by J.M. Hackman

J.M., thanks for coming on the blog. Having enjoyed Spark, the first book in The Firebrand Chronicles, I’m looking forward to learning more about the world of Linneah. First, for those who aren’t familiar with the story, tell us a bit about it.

Spark and Flare, books one and two in The Firebrand Chronicles, are YA fantasy. I’m super excited for Flare which releases February 26! The first two books (I’m planning for three total) are appropriate for readers who enjoy contemporary fantasy (ages 10-adult)

In Spark, Brenna James wants three things for her sixteenth birthday: to find her history notes before the test, to have her mother return from her business trip, and to stop creating fire with her bare hands.

Yeah, that’s so not happening. Unfortunately.

When Brenna learns her mother is missing in an alternate reality called Linneah, she travels through a portal to find her. But Brenna’s arrival in Linneah begins the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy, including a royal murder and the theft of Linneah’s most powerful relic: the Sacred Veil.

Unwilling yet left with no other choice, Brenna and her new friend Baldwin pursue the thief into the dangerous woods of Silvastamen and beyond. Exactly what Brenna wanted to do for her sixteenth birthday. Exactly. When they spy an army marching toward Linneah, Brenna is horrified.

Can she find the veil, save her mother, and warn Linneah in time?

And more importantly, why on earth doesn’t this alternity have Belgian waffles?

No Belgian waffles! Brenna should take some with her. The Linneans are missing out. ;-)

If we could go to Linneah, the world in your series, how would we get there?

Because The Firebrand Chronicles is a portal fantasy (think Chronicles of Narnia or even Harry Potter), the story starts in Pennsylvania but quickly continues in the alternity of the Jasper Territory. The alternity can be reached by several portals, all of which are situated near water. (The portal to the town of Linneah is on a water reservoir’s spillway in Pennsylvania—this is drawn from my memories of our old reservoir’s spillway in my hometown.) To get to Linneah, stand on the portal, wait, and try not to pass out because it can be a deadly experience. (For some. I’m sure you’ll be fine. Probably.)

That’s comforting. Lol!

How is Linneah different from our world?

We don’t have centaurs, satyrs, or griffins in our world, unfortunately, but the Jasper Territory does. Griffins, especially, have a special bond with Linneans that’s explored in Spark.

Learn more about griffins on Mythology.net.

Linneah looks a lot like Pennsylvania, but with an ocean nearby. Other places in the Jasper Territory have a different landscape and climate, much like North America. There are a few familiar plants and animals, but there are also Blood Spinners, Blade Pines, as well as the adorable, yet parasitic, Bragnaborns. And don’t go for a hike in Silvastamen (aka the Dark Wood). Most who explore there go crazy and are never seen again.

Wow. Your map is great, lots of details. And the inspiration for the coastline is beautiful. So, what’s special about Linneah and the Jasper Territory?

Aside from the portals? Absolutely nothing.


Just kidding!

The Jasper Territory isn’t inhabited by elves, dwarves, or fairies. Instead, there are unique races (Linneans with their hairstreak, the bald, broad-shouldered Camlos, Weldens who have an aura instead of legs, and the shapeshifting Merripens). But all have a special ability, the reason they were born and put on this planet. Sometime during the teen years, the gift begins to show itself.
The inhabitants of Linneah live in massive treehouses instead of regular houses where they can enjoy the evening view of the Petrus Rings that circle the planet, much like Saturn’s rings.

Every world starts with an idea. What idea inspired Linneah?

I believe each person is on this earth for a reason. But what if your ability, your talent was powerful, visible, and you had to figure out how to use it? That idea spawned The Firebrand Chronicles.

As a reader, I’m quite curious about how you came up with the name Linneah and if it means anything.

Linneah is a combination of my two daughter’s names. When I realized this town would need a name, I began writing out combinations. Linneah was my favorite.

Oh, I love that the name of your world has such a special connection. What other connections or influences went into building Linneah?

This series is the first series where I’d done any serious world building. It was so much fun, but oh-so-mentally exhausting! I wanted to get the world completely set up before I began, but eventually, I dove in and started writing. As much as I enjoyed the creating, at some point, you just have to stop!

I used Pinterest for visual ideas and relied on two main world building references: Storyworld First by Jill Williamson and The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy by Orson Scott Card.

Storyworld First is new to me. I’ll have to check it out.

Lastly, is there anything you didn’t already mention that would be of interest to readers?

Because Linneah and the Jasper Territory haven’t experienced an industrial revolution, I enjoyed creating organisms (helli lights and the glowfish) that would give the citizens light and heat.

I also found creating a map was invaluable and kept me from getting too turned around. My first one was sketched on lined notebook paper, the second one was hand-drawn and then scanned into paint.net (which turned out to be a very bad idea), and the third try was hand-drawn and ended up inside the book.

Spark (book 1) is available on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks.

Flare (book 2) is scheduled to release on February 26th. You can find out more about Flare on the Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing’s website.

You can read a full review of Spark on Lands Uncharted.

Thanks, J.M., for giving us a peek into the origin of Linneah, the world featured in The Firebrand Chronicles series. This was fun. I’m looking forward to reading Flare.

About J.M. Hackman

J. M. Hackman loves thunderstorms, bookstores, and happy endings. She’s never met a reading nook she didn’t like and prefers soul talk to small talk. When she’s not writing, reading, or crafting, she spends quality time with her greatest fans—her family.

Her stories have been published in the anthologies Realmscapes, Mythical Doorways, and Tales of Ever After. Her award-winning YA fantasy Spark (The Firebrand Chronicles) was released in 2017 from L2L2 Publishing. The sequel, Flare, is scheduled to release February 26, 2019. She spends her days writing stories, consuming massive quantities of dark chocolate, and looking for portals to other worlds.

Connect with J.M. Hackman through her website, or follow her on Facebook and Instagram. Of course, if you really want the inside scoop, check out her reader Facebook group, the Pyromaniacs, and her newsletter, True North Fiction.

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