We bought On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, the first in the Wingfeather Saga, as a birthday present for my 9 year old. I hadn't read book myself, but it had been recommended often by a friend, and it seemed like a good fit for a boy whose favourite book is The Lord of the Rings. He is also incredibly hard to buy for, and special books have gone down well in the past.
He loved it, and proceeded to spend his birthday money and vouchers on the rest of the series. He got his older brother reading it, and they both urged me to read the series too. I'm glad I did! The books had the three of us gripped over the summer. As my son bought them one at a time, we had to wait for them to be delivered, which took much longer than usual (agonising). Once they arrived, we had to take turns reading them, and since I was the last to read the final book, they were banned from talking about it near me in case they gave anything away.
These books are fantasy, and have all exciting elements of that genre: dangerous beasts, fantastic landscapes, battles, monsters, trolls. Toothy-cows were particularly popular in the Peach household. Humour is also a key element, which lightens the book's tone at times, and is appealing to 9 or 10 year old boys.
The story-telling is compelling, both in terms of the plot, and in terms of the central characters. At the beginning, we are introduced to the three children at the heart of the story: Janner, Kalmar (Tink), and Leeli. These brothers and sister live in a small town filled and ruled by the Fangs of Dang, fearsome lizard-like creatures. The children have to flee their town, with their mother and grandfather, and their adventures begin.
The three children at the centre of the story have different gifts and strengths, and also weaknesses. As the tale progresses, we see them grow in character through the hardships and difficulties they face. We also see them make mistakes - sometimes serious ones - and having to both face the consequences, and to learn about forgiveness.
One of the major themes, one that I think is a particular strength, is of a family which loves and serves each other. This is not a tale about children shaking off their parents' help as they learn to manage alone, but of children who learn to take on their responsibilities and duties with the help, guidance and support of their mother, and their grandfather (whose pirate-past means he is a great help in the battles they face!).
Finally, the books are shaped by the gospel. They are written by a Christian, and the children and their family rely on The Maker throughout their trials. Redemption is beautifully illustrated - especially in the final book - and I was sobbing real tears by the end. I want my children to see what it looks like to trust the Lord in every circumstance, to understand that there is hope even when they mess up really badly, to see that it is not weak to rely on and serve others; although they will never meet a toothy cow or a snickbuzzard, they will still need to be strong and brave and kind and selfless as they follow Christ, and it is good to have books which show these characteristics in such an admirable way.