Sunday, February 27, 2022

Book Review: Forbidden City by James Ponti (City Spies #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun story with great characters
Cons: All cons forbidden
The Bottom Line:
Chess is the mission
In globetrotting third entry
The fun continues

Spying and Chess

When I found the City Spies series a couple years ago, I immediately became a fan, eagerly awaiting each new adventure for MI6’s youngest agents.  Once I got my hands on the third book in the series, Forbidden City, I snuck it into my reading list as soon as I could.

If you have yet to meet the team, they are a group of five teenagers who each have extraordinary talents.  They are being trained in a facility in Scotland, and they attend a nearby private school.  That is, when they aren’t out on missions.  Each of the teens go by a code name based on a city near where they were recruited, hence the name of the group.

While on a recent mission, Paris discovered some bonus intel, and that turns out to be a valuable find.  It leads MI6 to believe that the evil organization Umbra is going to kidnap one of North Korea’s nuclear scientists.  If MI6 wants to get him to defect first, they need to find a way to approach him.  Given North Korea’s secrecy and security, that won’t be easy.  However, the scientist’s son is a top chess player, and he is planning to enter a couple of international tournaments.  So Paris tries to upgrade his own chess skills so he can join the tournaments.  Will Paris and the rest of the team be able to make contact with the scientist?  Is he even interested in defecting?

All the teens are in this book, and they all get their moments to shine.  However, this is really Paris’s book since so much of the action revolves around his part of the mission.  I enjoyed this chance to get to know him better.  Again, that’s not to say that the other characters don’t get their moments of growth.

That’s one thing I love about this series.  Yes, there are conflicts within the group.  However, you can tell these teens, and the two master spies training them, really do care for each other.  And the resolutions to those sub-plots are touching if predictable.  The great relationships between the characters are definitely something I keep coming back for.

What about the story?  It’s fun.  Chess may play an important part in it, but we don’t spend a lot of time sitting around watching Paris play.  Indeed, the book involves much more than just Paris as the team attacks the problem on several fronts.  Plus, we get to visit a couple of different countries in these pages.  I didn’t feel this book had quite as many action scenes as earlier books in the series, but the plot moved forward quickly and I was never bored, so that’s a minor complaint.

There are several threads running through the series.  While one of them was only mentioned in passing, another got some interesting developments.  I’m curious to see if more happens with that in the next one.

One thing that makes this series so good is that it is fun.  There are moments of humor that comes from the characters, and I did laugh and smile multiple times as I was reading.  Even when I wasn’t laughing, I was enjoying hanging out with these fictional friends.

Forbidden City is another book that kids of all ages will read as quickly as possible.  I am already looking forward to meeting up with the team again.

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


  1. I enjoyed the first book but have not had the time to read the next two. The characters are the biggest draw along with the enticing plot. Thanks for being a part of MMGM this week.

  2. Not my cup of tea but good to know about. I will keep it in mind for some of my young friends. Thanks for the post.

  3. What an amazing series. I haven't heard about it before, but I like your post about the characters, plot, humor and intrigue. And, I like chess.


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