Danny has been picked to attend this school, chosen for a deadly mission, because he is special--he looks like one of the enemy. Because of this, Danny has a chance to infiltrate the Ring of Five, the masterminds behind the war. In order to suceed, he will be manipulated, betrayed, and become a traitor himself...or maybe not.
The spy academy is magical place, full of bizarre classmates with strange abilities, and, in one case, with wings. Some are friendly, some hostile. There is a powerful headmaster who knows more than he is letting on, and although McNamee provides us with teasing glimpses of his point of view, the good guy/bad guy plot is all very mysterious for much of the book.
So perhaps there have been a few stories about strange boarding schools and chosen boys in the past, but that doesn't mean that new ones can't be exciting and interesting as well. And, although The Ring of Five didn't quite knock me of my feet, it was a fine adventure story of the mis-fit boy finding friends and excitement type. The spy twist in particular was fun--I enjoyed reading about the various spy lessons the school offers.
I am sure that The Ring of Five will appeal strongly to its target audience and will circulate in libraries like crazy--crisply written, fast-paced, cool weapons, mystery, spies-- what's not to like?...I don't have any hesitation recommending it to eleven or twelve year old boys, in particular (although the supporting cast includes several girls with interesting talents of their own).
viz spies--Ms Yingling has a lovely long list of spy books up at her blog today.
(disclaimer: arc picked up at ALA Midwinter)