The Ring of Five, by Eoin McNamee

The Ring of Five, by Eoin McNamee (Random House, May 11, 2010, middle grade, 352 pp)

Danny Caulfield has been neglected by his parents, and bullied by his classmates. Now he's being sent off to boarding school. But the taxi driver who comes to get him takes him on a very strange journey indeed, one that takes him to a school like none other. Not only is Wilsons a school for young spies, but it is also a place of magic and secrets. And on top of that, this particular school is a beleaguered island. It stands guard over the opening to our own world, holding off an enemy that plots to over-run it....

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).

I'd be somewhat less likely to press this into the hands of grown-up readers of mg fantasy--it was fun, but not Essential reading.

viz spies--Ms Yingling has a lovely long list of spy books up at her blog today.

(disclaimer: arc picked up at ALA Midwinter)


  1. It sounds like it fits the bill for what I'd want it for - my 7th grade boys :) Thanks for the review.

  2. ugh do not make your kids read this in 7th grade... we had to as a class assignment and it was probably the WORST book i've ever read in my whole life. And this is coming from someone who LOVES harry potter.. too. so don't think i have just given up on the fantasy/spy genre, becasue beclieve me, i havent ;)


Free Blog Counter

Button styles