Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire fantasy series, about five dragonets (young dragons) destined to end an ancient war between the seven dragon tribes of Pyrrhia, has been on the rise ever since the first book, The Dragonet Prophecy (Scholastic Press; 25,000 first printing), was hatched in July 2012. By book four, The Dark Secret (Oct. 2013) the series hit national bestseller lists, and to date the first eight books have a combined total of 2.9 million copies in print in the U.S. On June 28, the series’ first standalone title, a special edition origin story called Wings of Fire: Legends: Darkstalker (125,000 first printing), made its debut, much to the delight of fans.

Sutherland, creator of more than 30 books for kids and teens under her own name as well as several pseudonyms, said she is “really excited” to see Wings of Fire soar, in no small part because she gets to indulge her longtime fascination with dragons. “I loved dragon books as a kid,” she recalled. “I was obsessed with Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books and I probably read Dragonsong 80 times! More recently, I’ve read Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series and Jo Walton’s Tooth & Claw,” she said. “But I always kept thinking about how dragons have traditionally been the transportation, or pets, or sidekicks in fantasy books, but never got to be the heroes of the story.” Encouraged by her agent, Steven Malk of Writers House, to write something about dragons, Sutherland developed Wings of Fire and created a world where dragons are the ones who fall in love and have adventures and struggle with problems. “They’re like regular kids, except they can fly and have fire or magical powers,” she said with a laugh.

Though humans exist in the Wings of Fire universe, the two species don’t communicate; to this point, Sutherland’s tales are always from the dragon point of view. She knows quite a bit about taking an animal’s vantage point, as she has written books for the Warriors series (starring cats) and Seekers series (featuring bears) for HarperCollins as part of the team of authors using the pseudonym Erin Hunter. And before she wrote those books, she spent years editing the Warriors series at Harper, where she met the colleague and friend who is her current editor, Amanda Maciel.

“Tui and I met as editors at HarperCollins many – 15! – years ago and have been friends ever since,” said Maciel, executive editor at Scholastic. “I’ve known for a long time that she’s brilliant, with a particularly sharp eye for dialogue and plotting. When she left editing to write full-time, I was 100% certain her big break was inevitable.” When Maciel moved to Scholastic from Harper in 2007, she collaborated on a few books with Sutherland, but noted, “As soon as I saw the proposal for Wings of Fire, I knew this was it: the project that would reveal to the world the full extent of Tui Sutherland’s genius.”

Part of the appeal of the series, according to Maciel, is that “the main characters are dragons – what could be more empowering for a reader, of any age, than to live the experience of a massive, winged beast?” And she believes the “wonderfully rich and layered world” where the dragons have “art and mythologies and music, as well as magical and physical abilities” is another big draw. Maciel noted that the humor of the series is also a treat for readers. “Book eight especially made me laugh out loud as I was editing,” she said. “And when you’re laughing on one page and then biting your nails with anxiety on the next, that’s the definition of stellar entertainment.” And from a more practical standpoint, one of the things that attracted Maciel to Wings of Fire was Scholastic’s “incredible history with animal fantasy – and fantasy series, full stop.”

For her part, Sutherland said she has tried to reach readers by making the books accessible in an imaginative way. “I’ve created this world where they can come and play,” she said. “I tell them, ‘You can be a part of it, too. You can be a hero, saving the world in your own way.’ ” There are other big ideas for readers in the mix as well. “I hope my readers feel empowered,” Sutherland said. “I want them to know that even if you can’t choose your parents or your family, you can choose your destiny, and the path you take to be who you want to be.” Many of the family elements that Sutherland includes in the books have a personal resonance. “I hope people are picking up that there’s a lot about parenting, family, and being your own person in the stories,” she said. “The parents in my books are the worst parents in the world, but their kids still save the world, and that makes me feel better,” she joked, referencing her own role as mother to two young sons.

One of the most impressive things about Wings of Fire’s success that Sutherland has witnessed is the community of fans that has grown with the series – a group made up of both boys and girls. “I’m so excited to see the kids connecting so well to the books,” she said. At events, she is particularly gratified when “they tell me they love the series so much that they feel a part of it. There’s also an incredible Wings of Fire wiki where kids discuss the books in the forums and they submit amazing art and fan fiction.” Sutherland said she loves reading the forums, and sometimes refers to the wiki as a resource as she writes.

Scholastic is celebrating the arrival Darkstalker with 10,000 Wings of Fire origami kits (and video tutorials for making the origami dragons) available to booksellers nationwide, and both the books and the kits are being featured at Scholastic Summer Reading Road Trip events. One of the dragonets, Clay, even has a prominent spot as one of the characters painted on the Scholastic Reading Road Trip RV. Barnes & Noble is selling an exclusive edition of Darkstalker that contains seven dragonet game pieces and a Pyrrhia map gameboard.

Sutherland, who is based in Boston, will make local and regional appearances supporting the book this summer, including a stop at Brookline Booksmith on August 7, and will appear at the Tweens Read Book Festival in Houston on October 22. Plans for other fall events are still in the works. In the meantime, she is working on edits of book nine (due out December 27) and has begun writing book 10, the projected series finale. “Book 10 will resolve some of the problems we’ve seen throughout the series,” Sutherland said, “But I also have another idea for a standalone book.” – which is surely news that will thrill her fans.

Wings of Fire: Legends: Darkstalker by Tui T. Sutherland. Scholastic Press, $17.99 June ISBN 978-1-338-05361-2