My daughter and I read A Wizard Abroad first (the fourth book in the So You Want To Be A Wizard series), and then we read So You Want To Be A Wizard, the first book in the series.
Both stress the responsibilities and hazards of having great power. Both climax in a to-the-death battle between Good and Evil. And So You Want ..., much to the dismay of my daughter, proclaims the theme that self-sacrifice to the death is deemed a worthy and necessary outcome in certain extenuating circumstances. And that it might happen to a friend of yours. Perhaps because you need them to make that sacrifice. This is not a theme that my daughter much likes.
Which is why, as a project, I am suggesting that my daughter spend time looking for Christian symbolism in the novels she reads, even fluffy ones like this one.
Deep Wizardry, the second book in the series, picks and chooses from the themes and plots of the others in the series. Duane is wonderful at describing young teenagers accidentally taking on more than they can really handle and then -- handling it. She's also very good at describing parents of gifted kids who really want to trust their children but have a hard time understanding what those children are capable of or what drives them. Duane's descriptions of the world and senses of whales in Deep Wizardry make it well worth reading. My daughter and I loved getting to know Kit and Nita, the young wizards, and Nita's younger sister Dairine, as well as Nita's earnest and striving parents and the advisor wizards and their interesting and talented familiars (a parrot and a dog).
But, by the end of the bloody and demoralizing battle at the end of Deep Wizardry, we decided to take a break, concerned that other books in the series prove to be more of the same. I understand there are seven books in total in the series.
Our recommendation: Read Deep Wizardry first. Then, read A Wizard Abroad if you are interested in Celtic myth and atmosphere, or read So You Want To Be A Wizard if you feel you need the gory details of how Nita and Kit over-promised.
-- Emily Berk