Just finished reading this to my 9 year old boys tonight and it was great. I was worried going into it that this might be a bit much for them but they handled it well. One of them did better than the other with details and remembering characters from before but they both enjoyed it. I have also seen some of the features of this world building in their own creations.
I myself must make an admission though, I thought I had read the whole series as a boy. I clearly remember much of the first two volumes (and the Hobbit). I almost remember where I was and when I finished the Two Towers the last scene was so vivid to me. However, I don't remember anything really from the Return of the King. It seems I never actually read the third book. I saw the movies when they came out and I think I kind of suspected that I hadn't read it, but it wasn't till reading it to them that it became clear that somehow I had convinced myself that I had read it but hadn't actually.
It's a great series. I think in many ways this defines "epic" for me more than Homer or Vergil. Even not having finished the whole thing it definitely made a big impression on me as a boy.
Paul Bryant has an interesting quote from China Mieville in his review. I think there's some truth to Mieville's criticisms. In some ways there are some sort of ludicrous aspects to the series. Still, I think that's part of adult enjoyment. There's very little that we can be so enthusiastic about as when we are young. When you are young you really unreservedly immerse yourself in things. As adults there's always parts of us that feel dissatisfied. Whether it's the artistry or the level of maturity, or the ideals that animate the narrative. I think for me at least I can kind of hold them together. This is true for a lot of things I encounter. Often I have felt that I was excessively picky and that maybe that pickiness was just a way of distancing myself from things. In thinking about the Lord of the Rings, I guess it seems to me that I'm just never going to go back to being a child and unreservedly taking something on. There's always going to be a critical voice in my mind now. I think though that I can kind of have them both. I don't have to think that the Lord of the Rings is a perfect series while I still say that it was a five star read.