Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Two

Seven Books in Seven Weeks – Part Two

Seven Books in Seven Weeks – The Book Of Three

… Part two of a seven part series…

Welcome back to Seven Books in Seven Weeks, a series of blogs, where I talk about stories that have made an impact on me over the years. This week, I’m covering another children’s classic, The Book of Three, by American writer, Lloyd Alexander.

As with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis, which I discussed in the first part of this series, The Book of Three was one of those stories that I read as a very young boy and it has stayed with me ever since. In fact, it had such an impact on me that, in my mid-thirties, I decided to hunt down all five books that comprise the Chronicles of Prydain series (in the Armada Lion imprint, no less), just so that I could have a complete collection to call my own.

The Book of Three centres around Taran, a young, assistant pig keeper. Bored with his mundane existence, even though Hen-Wen, the pig that he cares for is a rare, oracular one, he dreams of being a hero, like his mentor, Coll, who was once a great warrior. Of course, when a shadow falls over the land and Hen-Wen flees the sanctuary of Caer Dallben, Taran gets more excitement than he bargained for, as he sets out to find his lost pig and return her to safety. Along the way, he meets a motley assortment of characters, including Fflewddur Fflam, a kingly bard whose harp strings snap whenever he tells a lie; Doli, a grumpy, yet loyal dwarf, with the curse of invisibility (read the book and you’ll realise why it is a curse); Princess Eilonwy, the haughty and feisty owner of a magic bauble and later, of Taran’s heart; and Gurgi, a hairy, humanesque creature, who, after many adventures together, becomes Taran’s closest friend.


Front cover of The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander - Rob Gregory Author

Front cover of the 1973 Armada Lion imprint of The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander.


Looking back on it, The Book of Three is essentially an introduction to the main characters that the rest of the chronicles are based around and the land of Prydain, where the tales are set. However, for a younger reader, there is more than enough action to carry the story along and Alexander, in my view, very cleverly uses the book to sow the seeds for events that occur later in the series. For example, although the Horned King, the central villain in The Book of Three, suffers a similar fate to Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace, i.e. being killed off in the first instalment, without hope of revival, he is the mechanism by which we learn of the black cauldron and the undead, cauldron born warriors, which pop up in later books. Then there is Achren, the evil enchantress, who provides the backstory to Arawn, the Sauron of the series, to use another movie simile and of course, the incident with the Gwythaint, one of the many creatures that Arawn has bent to his dominion. If you haven’t read the series already, then, don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil that particular surprise for you here.

One of the things that I like most about The Book of Three is its humanity. All of the major players have faults and foibles, which make them more believable than say, the characters in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Taran, for example, begins the book full of boyish arrogance but quickly learns that being a hero takes a lot more than just swinging a sword around and looking menacing, which is what Coll has been trying to teach him all along. By the end of the story, Taran has learned more than a few hard lessons and is ready to take on his once mundane duties with renewed respect and humility.


Rear cover of The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander - Rob Gregory Author

Rear cover of The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander, featuring Doli the dwarf.


I was, at this point, going to say that The Book of Three is a much darker story than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but darker is not the right word. As I mentioned in my review, the latter tale contains a number of very bleak themes, which, were they not so skilfully woven into the storyline, could have come across as downright terrifying. Perhaps the word that I am looking for instead, is, real, if such a thing can be said about a children’s fantasy tale? The Book of Three describes an adventure, which is closer to real-life than the magical adventure given to us in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Nothing quite happens in the way that Taran expects and he quickly finds himself well out of his depth. The emotions are more real, too. Taran treats those around him with suspicion, mistrust and scorn, until he realises that he needs them as much as they need him, if he is to survive and help to save the day. That too, is an important point, in terms of the reality of the story. In The Book of Three, Taran is the main character, but not the hero. He doesn’t defeat the bad guy and claim victory, someone else does. Imagine being ten years old and reading that, after growing up on ‘happily ever after’ stories!

Now, before you start thinking that I am slating The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I would point out that it is a vastly different book to The Book of Three. Not only was it written in a different era, but it was also written for a different and dare I say it, younger, audience. So, if Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy are truly magnificent heroes, in the classic British vein, with maybe a touch of Ealing or Hollywood sparkle about them, then Taran is a darker, grittier, more fallable hero, possibly from the John McClane mould? Not quite: “Yippie Ki Yay…” but getting there.


The entire Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander

The complete Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander, in the Armada Lion imprint.


So, how has The Book of Three and indeed, the rest of the Chronicles of Prydain, impacted me? Well, as with, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I have read each book in the series many times, both as a child and an adult, and to this day, I still find them a wonderfully touching and absorbing rendition of a boy’s journey into manhood. I also suppose that, in a way, they introduced me to the notion of imperfect storytelling, i.e. that rather than the journey being a linear trek from point A to point B, it should be unpredictable and chaotic. More like real life, if you will. Finally, and it is a testament to the power and influence of Lloyd Alexader’s writing, both the name of the mythical sword in my novel Drynwideon, not to mention the magical bag, which the hero, Drin, accidentally summons from the Fairy Spinner in the swamp, were inspired by events in The Book of Three.

Right, two down… five more to go! What’s next? Well, I promise that it won’t be another children’s book! Stay tuned for more and if you enjoyed reading this, then please share it with your friends!

Thank you!


Seven Books in Seven Weeks

Seven Books in Seven Weeks


Seven Books in Seven Weeks – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

… Part one of a seven part series…


Last year, I did a silly thing on Twitter. No, it wasn’t sharing an inappropriate picture of my anatomy with my followers or trying to chat up a complete stranger using a series of amusing GIFs, it was far more subtle than that. Share one book that had made an impact on me, every day for a week. Funnily enough, it was called Seven Books in Seven Days and the main criterion was that you couldn’t say anything about the book in the Tweet, you just had to post the cover. Thinking back on it, it would have been more appropriate to have called it Seven Book Covers in Seven Days, but then that wouldn’t have been so headline-grabbing.

Anyway, it was a bit of fun at the time, but because I am a writer and someone who believes that people can still read more than two-hundred and eighty characters in one sitting without fainting, I always felt that my selections deserved a bit more explanation. So, today I give to you Seven Books in Seven Weeks, a series in which I will revisit each book that I Tweeted back in November and provide you with a little more context about why I chose it. It will actually take a little more than seven weeks to complete, due to other blogging commitments, but you get the idea and I am sure that you will forgive me for the subtle deception in the title!

The first book that I have chosen is a children’s classic and one which has been reissued countless times since it’s initial publication, as well as being adapted for television, the theatre and the big screen. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by C. S. Lewis.


Front cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Seven Books in Seven Weeks. Rob Gregory Author

Front cover of the 1971, UK version, of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis.


First published in 1950, I have a copy of the 1971 edition, which was given to me by an uncle when I was about seven or eight years old. At the time, I was still of an age where I preferred pictures to solid text, so was delighted by the many delicate line illustrations, drawn by Pauline Baynes, which littered the chapters.

Without giving too much away, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe tells the story of four British children, who are sent to live with an elderly professor in the countryside, during the outbreak of the Second World War. Separated from their parents and in a wholly new environment, it is Lucy, the youngest of the two boys and two girls, who stumbles upon a magical world, apparently hidden within an old wardrobe, standing in one of the many unused rooms of the professor’s house. The world, called Narnia, has been locked in perpetual winter by the evil witch of the title. Lucy is mocked by her older siblings, until they too encounter the world and are thrown into an adventure, which sees them having to battle the witch, with the help of Aslan, a talking lion, in order to restore Narnia to its former glory.

As an adult, it is easy to disassemble the underlying mechanics of the story and especially with the cynicism that pervades modern society, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe could be dismissed as an outdated tale about four, privileged, white children, who, assisted by the most powerful being in the land, displace a tyrant, only to take over and rule without challenge until they are old.


Inside the beaver's house. One of Pauline Bayne's illustrations in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Rob Gregory Author

One of Pauline Bayne’s wonderful illustrations in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.


However, through the eyes of a child, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, is a magical and very powerful book. While the setting, the characters and their behaviour are undoubtedly dated, they are also absolutely of their time and for me, this is part of what makes it a classic, along with the excellent storytelling, of course. Who, when they were growing up, didn’t like the idea of being thrust from their own mundane existence of school and suburbia, and dropped into a land filled with talking animals, overcoming supreme evil, in the form of a horrible enchantress, to end up living a life of luxury and adoration?

I recall being spellbound when I first read the book. I loved Mister Tumnus, the faun who befriends Lucy and is, in his own way, just as brave as the four children. The corruption of Edmund, Lucy’s older brother, with the promise of Turkish Delight had me on the edge of my seat and the scene with Aslan and the stone table upset me deeply, all of which was intended by Lewis’ fantastic writing.

Everything in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is meant to appeal to children and this is why I think that it has endured for so long. The clearly defined struggle between good and evil, the fact that the ‘good guys’ win in the end and get their reward, not to mention the ability to spend a lifetime in paradise, without any time passing in the real world, has an appeal that we see reflected, not only in modern storytelling, but also in modern movies, albeit to a lesser extent than before.


Rear cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Seven Books in Seven Weeks. Rob Gregory Author

Rear cover of the 1971, UK version, of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Note the absence of a barcode.


However, in amongst the saccharine and sugar frosting are darker themes. Edmund’s betrayal of his family, including Susan and Peter, his older sister and brother, for his own immediate gain, reflects a selfishness which many children can relate to and even though he is subsequently redeemed, he pays a price which hints at what life in the grown-up world can be like. The callous treatment of those who dare to oppose the witch, being turned into stone, introduces the nature of despotism and while done, I imagine, to help set the witch up as the central figure of hatred in the book, possibly also subliminally reflects events that had happened in Europe just a few years earlier.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is also a book which contains strong Christian themes and although, in 1958, Lewis himself made the point that they were suppositional, rather than allegorical in nature, I have to admit that I turned away from it for many years because of this fact. I have, however, since re-read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe a number of times during adulthood and am happy to say that the Christian overtones no longer bother me as much as they once did. And looking back, it is hardly surprising that the book has a somewhat religious bent to it. After all, it was written at a time when Christianity enjoyed a far stronger hold over the British public than it does today and C. S. Lewis was well known as a deeply religious man, who included Christian themes in many of his works, both those for adults and children.

The impact of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe on me has been profound. For one thing, it was one of the books which really got me interested in reading and I think that the fact that I’ve consumed both it and the other chronicles of Narnia more times than I can remember, speaks for itself. However, I also think that it helped me to develop my own ideas about what imaginary worlds could look like and taking Lewis’ lead, I’ve certainly not been afraid to do all manner of unusual and downright unexpected things to the characters in my own books. Anyone who has read ‘Death and the Schoolboy’ or ‘Drynwideon’ will be able to attest to that!

So, there you have it! Book one in Seven Books in Seven Weeks. Stay tuned for the next instalment, coming soon. As to what it is, well, you’ll just have to wait and see.

Thank you!


I hope that you enjoyed this blog. If you did, then please do share it with your friends and have a look at my other offerings.


My first book signing at Icon Amazed!

My first book signing at Icon Amazed!

My first book signing!

… At the opening of ‘Icon Amazed’ in Chiang Mai, Thailand…

Wednesday 16 May 2018, saw the opening of ‘Icon Amazed’, the latest exhibition by talented Thai artist, Goy Kankanakul, at the Meeting Room Art Café, in Chiang Mai. Goy first hit the headlines in 2017 with ‘Exhiblitz’, a novel art concept involving simultaneous exhibitions in five locations across Thailand.

The event was the chance to see a range of fifteen new pieces by Goy, all using her unique fine-liner technique, known as ‘mazing’. Among them were interpretations of classic masters and pop-art icons alike, including Marylin Monroe and ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’, as well as a range of captivating studies of well-known Thai temples.

Icon Amazed - Marylin Monroe. Rob Gregory Author

Pop-Art and Cubism fused together in Goy’s homage to Marylin Monroe.

And standing loyally next to a table (not the one with the drinks on it, you’ll be surprised to hear) was yours truly, doing his first official book signing of ‘Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right’, the artwork for which, was done by Goy back in late 2017.

Icon Amazed - R.A. Gregory and Goy Kankanakul with Drynwideon. Rob Gregory Author

Books need openings too!

The ‘Icon Amazed’ opening event was a huge success, with over one hundred people passing through the doors of Joe’s fantastic gallery space during the three and half hours that it ran for. And in case you missed it, while the book signing is sadly over, Goy’s pictures, as well as a limited number of copies of Drynwideon, are still on display at the Meeting Room Art Café until May 31.

For more information about ‘Icon Amazed’, Goy’s artwork or to purchase pictures online, please visit or (the online home of the Meeting Room Art Café, physical location: 89 Charoen Rat Road, Chiang Mai, opposite Wat Ket Karam).

Icon Amazed -R.A. Gregory, Goy Kankanakul and friends. Rob Gregory Author

Surrounded by Goy’s wonderful artwork.

Special thanks to Brian and Joe for organising the event, to Rob Brown for the fantastic photographs and Aydan from Chiang Mai City Life for the post-event coverage.

Watch this space to find out what Goy will be up to next. It’s bound to be interesting!

Drynwideon – The unofficial launch party

Drynwideon – The unofficial launch party

Drynwideon – The unofficial launch party

… a night to remember…

Thanks to my wonderful literary agent, Brian McMullan, we had an unofficial launch party for Drynwideon back in early March at Jethro’s Lounge in Chiang Mai. Some of the less incriminating photos of the event have recently surfaced, so I’m finally able to share them with you here. Hopefully, the more incriminating ones will never see the light of day!

Many thanks to everyone who came and supported the event, especially fellow author Antonin Cee, author of ‘Native Herb’, an excellent collection of short stories about Thailand. We had lots of very enthusiastic feedback, as well as more than a few people who were very pleasantly surprised when they were presented with a complimentary copy of the book. Also, thanks to Chris and Malai for their wonderful hospitality as always.

In other news, feedback on the book has so far been extremely positive and while we’ve not set the world on fire (yet) things are starting to build nicely, with distribution of the paperback version looking increasingly likely across several normally hard to reach Asian countries in the coming weeks.

If you haven’t done so already, please check out the free sample chapters on my website ( and better still, tell your friends and buy the book!

Happy reading!

Drynwideon update – The Paperback Lives!

Drynwideon update – The Paperback Lives!

Taking delivery of Drynwideon

…A proud father speaks…

A quick Drynwideon update. On Tuesday this week, I got a call from the printers to say that the first batch of my new book, ‘Drynwideon, The Sword of Destiny – Yeah, Right’ was ready for collection. It was the news I had been waiting almost three weeks for and with all the excitement of an expectant father, I grabbed my literary agent, Brian, leapt ‘Batman-style’ into the truck and made my way to the print shop as quickly as I could, complete with screeching tyres, which Brian will back me up on.

Having arrived at the printers in record-breaking time, we ran into the ‘delivery room’, well the main office really and there it was, lying on the table, a virgin copy of Drynwideon, all shiny and new, with several of its brothers and sisters swaddled snugly inside some cellophane wrapping to protect them from the chill of the balmy Asian afternoon.

After a little small talk, it suddenly dawned on me that I should capture the moment, so courtesy of Brian and my smartphone, we talked the head printer and some of the lads down on the shop floor into posing for a couple of snapshots.

So, there you have it. Drynwideon now lives and we have proof positive of its paperback status. So spread the word, start saving up those nickels and dimes, schekels or pennies and be one of the first to get your hands on a physical copy of the book, which looks fantastic in the flesh and reads even better! And in the meantime, why not read the sample chapters here for free?