To the young reader, such as my six year old son, who loves these books, these are swashbuckling and exciting stories of mystery and danger. The Secret Seven on speed. But to those of us who grew up with Fleming's Bond and his silver screen representation, they are something entirely different: Bond's historical and psychological back story.
And filling in the Bond background is a task that Higson has clearly taken very seriously: it is thorough and thoughtful and presents an entirely convincing series of events in the young man's life that explains why and how he became his elder self.
And it is a process that takes place over the full five books as Bond gradually withdraws into himself and becomes a hardened and self-reliant invidual as he increasingly learns that there are few people he can trust, and that by getting too close to others he has the capacity to hurt both them and himself. Higson actually imbues his Bond with a high degree of emotional intelligence - something almost entirely lacking in the filmed Bond, with a couple of notable exceptions, not least Daniel Craig in Casino Royale.
His is a complex and interesting character, more likable than the adult Bond, which is probably inevitable and in By Royal Command, James Bond graduates from schoolboy adventurer to apprentice spy, leaving behind him his innocence and his youth.
But the development of Bond is just one element of what makes these books so terrific. They are also great stories, excitingly told with the best of the drama and action of the films. By Royal Command is made more fascinating by being given a fascinating historical perspective.
It starts in the Alps, under the faint shadow of Nazism in Germany, where Bond is on a school skiing trip and has the uneasy feeling he is being followed. As he returns to Eton that feeling is intensified and eventually drawn into the disturbing world of pre-war politics where some factions are flirting with Hitler - Bond actually meets Edward (then Prince of Wales) and Mrs Wallis Simpson - and there are echoes of the Cold War that is to follow.
The narrative crackles through any number of dramas and sub-plots before Bond is back in the Alps for a hair-raising finale.
It's great stuff, and works on levels that will please both adults and kids.
It is rumoured that Higson is considering returning to Bond as a young adult during the war in a new series. I sincerly hope he does. He has added much to Bond lore with these five novels.