Sunday, September 12, 2021

Book Review: Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs (Spy School #9)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, story, laughs
Cons: All cons washed overboard
The Bottom Line:
Mission on cruise ship
Anything but smooth sailing
Delightful for all

Cruising for Danger

I have wanted to go on a Panama Canal cruise for years.  I finally got my chance via the page thanks for Spy School at Sea.  While I’m glad I wasn’t on this particular cruise in real life, I loved reading about it.

It you aren’t familiar with this middle grade series, it features Ben Ripley, a young teen who is a student at the CIA’s school to train new agents.  While he wouldn’t normally be going out in the field on dangerous missions, he constantly finds himself out in the field and facing plenty of danger.  While these books might be aimed at kids, they are delightful for all ages.

This book finds Ben being sent on a mission aboard Emperor of the Seas, the largest cruise ship ever constructed.  The CIA believes that Ben’s nemesis Murray Hill is going to join the ship’s passage through the Panama Canal to conduct some villainous scheme.  Naturally, they don’t know what name he’s working under or what he is plotting now, but since Ben knows Murray best, they figure he can work out what Murray is up to in time to stop them.  So he’s off on the mission with Erica Hale, her parents, and his friend Mike, all of them posing as a family on vacation.

The team quickly realizes that finding Murray on board the floating city is going to be difficult at best.  Will they find him?  Can they figure out his plan in time?  And will Ben and Mike be able to keep the secret they are hiding from the Hales?

If you don’t know what secret I’m referring to there, you’ll want to read the previous book in the series.  Having said that, this book really does stand alone pretty well.  Since Murray has been in the rest of the series, there are references to some of the things that have happened in the past, but nothing that will spoil the previous books, and you can easily follow this book without knowing the specifics.  However, these books are delightfully fun, so you will want to read them all at some point.

Since this is book nine in the series, fans of the series already know what to expect, and they won’t be disappointed in the least.  Looking for action, adventure, and a plot that will keep you turning pages?  You’ve got it.  I was actually talking about the book with some friends as I was reading it, and I realized just how crazy the plots in this series can get, but they all make perfect sense with the world that has been created in these novels.  Ben faces several deadly complications that kept me turning pages quickly.

Then there are the characters.  At first, they might appear to be types, but there is some depth to them, and we get some great character development again as this book goes along.  I continue to love how that character development is worked into the almost non-stop action and adventure.

I can’t leave out the humor.  I laughed pretty hard at some of the things Ben faced in this book.  Okay, so some of my reaction might have been a result of the stressful week I was having, but this was just the fun release I needed.

As I said earlier, the series is aimed at middle grade students.  I’m a decade or three older than the target audience, and I can’t wait for each new book in the series.  My suggestion?  Get them for the student in your life, and then sneak them to your room to read as well.  You’ll thank me later.

Spy School at Sea is a delight from start to finish.  No matter how many of Ben’s adventures you’ve been on, you’ll enjoy this crazy, delightful, fun cruise.

Enroll in the rest of the Spy School series.

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


  1. I love these, too. A cruise has always sounded appealing, and I'm thinking vague thoughts about taking a cruise for spring break. Rates are bound to be low, and I have a lot of sick days saved up in case I pick anything up. The idea of being somewhere where there is NO work for me to do is tremendously appealing.

  2. I just saw a promotional ad for this series last week and was curious about it. This sounds like a great spy mystery series with the added benefit of being funny. Glad you could vicariously go on your trip.

  3. Great review, Mark. I always look forward to the newest Stuart Gibbs books. The Spy School series is the best, IMHO!

  4. I've enjoyed this series and look forward to reading this one. I was fortunate to do a Panama Canal trip 7 years ago. Every minute was worthwhile so you'd better get down there yourself! Happy MMGM!

  5. I have never read this series, but I just may have to. I took a cruise through the Panama Canal and it was spectacular! Looks like a series I will soon be able to share with a great grandson.

  6. So, I didn't actually read your review. (Okay, I peeked.) This is the new one, right? Looking forward to it!

  7. I hear so many good things about these books—I remember another MMGM blogger a few years ago who had these as a favorite series, actually! This review makes the newest one sound great as well. Thanks so much for sharing!

  8. I might have a niece and nephew who might enjoy these. Thanks for the recommendation.

  9. I don't think I have read any of these books, but this sounds like fun. I like funny books. Thanks for the review.


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