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It's an extremely proud, nationalistic country. There's strong traditionally masculine elements here.

That means a culture that can be kind of xenophobic, violent, and aggressive.

Despite that, I actually like it. I like traditionally masculine, proud, nationalistic countries. I know that isn't fashionable to say in this day and age, but after having been around a lot of the world, I just feel really bad for the citizens of countries that are totally pacified and unproud. The men move through life in a sort of drudgery and haze, and the women don't seem to enjoy those state of affairs either.

That said, pride/nationalism/hyper-masculine mixed with transitioning out of poverty can lead to bad places. It's not so much nationalism that is bad, as much as it's a catalyst for whatever else is happening in the society. In a country in a renaissance or golden age, with an emphasis on expansion, science, commerce, innovation, hard work, and building wealth, nationalism and pride becomes a force for progress. In a country that's on the down and out, nationalism amplifies that to bad result.

Mongolia is interesting. Their national holiday, Naadam, is a festival in July featuring wrestling, horseback riding, and archery.

Review: The Written by Ben Galley

On Books In Progress

Ben Galley is a fantasy author and staunch defender of independent publishing. The Written is his first book, and the first in The Emaneska trilogy.

I have to say I was expecting some fairly standard sword and sorcery tale here, a bit of magic, a few fabulous beasts slain, the usual wise grey beards and prophecies. As a first book that would have definitely been the safe option, and would still have been a good read.

Needless to say this isn't what you get. You get a slew of mythical creatures - dragons (I suspect on the Pern novels exceed the sheer number in this book), werewolves and more besides. You get heroes and villains. You get magic. You get sword fights. But all of these are put together in a way that's different from the norm. Rather than trying to subvert all the fantasy tropes it is as if Galley dropped them and they smashed and in putting them back together they aren't quite the same as they were before.

The basic story concerns the theft of a spell book which, in the wrong hands, can be used to summon a mighty and powerful evil. Farden, one of the Written (a sort of magic user that has spells tattooed onto his back) has to try to prevent this happening. I won't give any more details as there are many twists and turns as the story unfolds.

Farden is a powerful mage and a tough fighter and although he is heoric he also has personal demons that could cause his mission to fail. He is a loner with little patience for others. He doubts his own abilities and judgement. As the reader you feel you want to give him a good shaking sometimes to get him to act. This makes him a very complex character, realistic and interesting to follow. The other main characters are also fully realised with their own mannerisms and momentum.

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