Sunday, June 7, 2020

Book Review: City Spies by James Ponti (City Spies #1)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Action, characters, fun
Cons: Maybe a little over the top (but I really didn’t mind)
The Bottom Line:
Sara becomes spy
Begins a great new series
Sure to enthrall all

Meet the City Spies

When I saw author Stuart Gibbs recommending City Spies by James Ponti recently, I took it seriously.  I love Stuart’s books, and with how highly he was recommending this book, I figured I loved it, too.  I’m so glad I listened to this recommendation.

Sara Martinez is in jail after hacking into New York’s juvenile justice system to turn in her foster parents.  She gets the surprise of her life when her lawyer turns out to be a man called Mother, who reveals himself to be a British spy.  He whisks Sara away to Scotland where she joins a secret team of MI6 made up of other kids like herself.

Sara has joined them just weeks before their next mission – infiltrating an ecological conference to stop a group that is out to sabotage it.  Will Sara be far enough along in her training to be an asset to her team?  Will they succeed in their mission?

This is a first book in a series, so there is plenty of set up.  We need that introduction to Sara’s world.  While lots of exposition can slow a book down, that wasn’t the case here.  We get the information we need mixed in with plot developments and exciting missions.  And the book doesn’t tease us with the background we need for too long, either.  Most explanations are given fairly quickly without slowing things down.

Which is another way to say I wasn’t bored.  The pace never lags, and we are kept entertained as Sara works to settle into her new world.  As entertaining as all of that is, once the mission gets going, things get even more engrossing.  The pages couldn’t fly by fast enough because I had to know what was going to happen next.

Being a spy story, I did feel there were moments that were over the top.  But it’s a spy story; those are to be expected.  I didn’t mind too much since I was along for the ride.

On top of the action, the characters were wonderful.  While we don’t get to know all the characters super well, we definitely get to know Sara and a few of the others.  There are plenty of moments for character growth, and I loved seeing how the characters and their relationships developed.  In fact, I found parts of it very heartwarming.  Then there were the parts that made me laugh as I was reading.

James writes for a middle grade audience, and they will absolutely love the action and the characters.  Obviously, I’m a year or two (or a decade or three) older than the target audience, and I enjoyed it as well.

City Spies may have been the first book I read by James Ponti, but I won’t be the last.  Not only am I looking forward to the sequel, but he has some older books I need to go back and explore.  This is a middle grade book that all ages will enjoy.

This review is part of this week's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday.


  1. Looks interesting.

  2. That looks really cute! I'm always on the lookout for fresh MG for my girl. And I haven't found any spy/espionage content that would be appropriate. Thanks for the share!

  3. I've seen a lot of people enjoy this series over the years, and you make it sound quite appealing! Thanks for the great review!

  4. This sounds like a great series. I checked but my library doesn't have it. I'll keep my eye out for it.

  5. Ponti and Gibbs are friends, but it's still a great book! I met Ponti at a very small bookstore event for Framed!- he's certainly gone great places since! Spy books are my favorite genre now.

  6. I enjoyed this book and also Framed. Thanks for sharing on MMGM.

  7. You had me by the third paragraph. This sounds like an excellent story. Will look forward to finding a copy! Thanks for the recommendation!

  8. This sounds like a cute book for middle graders. I have a hard time reading books with kids as spies, but I'm sure there is a great audience for this book. Thanks for telling me about it.


Thanks for stopping by. In order to combat spam, I moderate most comments. I'll get to your comment as soon as I can.