A good friend I met in Colombia who also helped me by reading a beta version of Harbinger, and who had also loved The Gallows Gem of Prallyn, gave me some valuable feedback by asking me a great question: why is my world, that had so much magic in it, suddenly so devoid of manifestations of the mystical?

It's deliberate.

First, it's worth noting that Gallows Gem is a self-contained story, albeit one that leaves some questions unresolved, whereas Harbinger begins another saga set on the other side of a large continent but in the same world. Astute readers will find brief references to the other side of the world in each book.

Following on from that, indeed, Gallows Gem has a lot of magic: people debate how they come by it ... does it come from the gods? is it a manifestation of people able to tap into the full power of their minds? does it arise from cultural ceremonies? On the other hand, in Harbinger, everyone (except Elkor) sees mystical manifestations or the will of the gods (or demons) in everything, including what we in our world might simply categorize as natural phenomena, such as a cold wind blowing on a fateful day, the blind chance of four women giving birth on the same night, or people studying cadavers to learn about anatomy.

So, why the difference?

I admit that in Harbinger, there are no circles of power capable of summoning supernatural entities or gate-destroying fireballs, but I contend we do encounter hints of the mystical: strange dreams, religious fervour, prophetic visions, glimpses of creatures that radiate light, to name a few.

I do not intend my books to be read as a series, one after the other, except in so far as it would be better to read Harbinger, Book One of Northern Fire, prior to The Winter Wars, Book Two of Northern Fire. However, as a reader encounters the books and becomes familiar with my world, they will slowly see a bigger narrative running through the works.

Thus, without revealing any spoilers, all I can say is that the question above from my beta reader is an astute one arising from a close reading of both books currently available. I hope you all keep with me on this journey of world-building so that you discover the answer in due course.

Does that make sense?