Title: The Athena Protocol
Author: Shamim Sarif
Publication Date: October 8, 2019
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ARC access provided by the publisher as part of the Fantastic Flying Book Club’s blog tour. All opinions expressed are my own.
Shamim Sarif serves up fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller in her YA debut The Athena Protocol.
Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.
Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill – so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.
Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all ides if she’s to complete her mission – and survive.
This was one of my most anticipated books this year. A spy thriller featuring female spies? You got my attention. Someone from the team turns rogue and the other members are ordered to bring her down? SIGN ME UP!
The Athena Protocol was an enjoyable read. Thrilling, fast-paced, so full of heart-pumping action and delicious plot twists. I gobbled up all the spy part – the cool gadgets, Jessie’s amazing ways with a computer and the net, all the spying and sneaking around and bringing down the bad guys.
But more than all the kickass stuff, this book is about female bonds: the strength of it, the depth of it.
The bond between the three female spies – Hala, Caitlin, and Jessie – was easily my most favorite part of this book. They weren’t perfect: they fight and argue and have differing opinions and ways of doing things. Coming from different backgrounds and factoring in their unique personalities, it’s something that couldn’t be helped. Caitlin acted as the lever, balancing and tempering her teammates, oftentimes running as a mediator and acting as team leader when they are out in the field. Hala was closed-off and guarded, controlled and distrustful, cold even. She’s had it toughest among the three and her beginnings are a big part of who she is and how she processes things.
Then there’s Jessie.
Jessie is a compelling protagonist. Fiery, headstrong, and soldier-like in efficiency, she is a competent agent with a deep sense of justice. Her impulsiveness, however, led her to break rules and cross lines, her decisions blowing right back in her face and putting her at odds with her teammates and superiors.
I admit I didn’t like Jessie – her impulsivity and her immaturity both are strikes against her in my book – but it does not take away what a good character she is. She’s an effective story mover. She advanced scene after scene and, with her unpredictability, kept everything exciting while doing so. However, for all her talk of wanting to do better, Jessie’s character growth was minimal at best. She kept on committing the same mistakes throughout the book, never learning from them, and it stagnated her progress.
This book took a while before it hooked its claws on me. Especially considering that this was told from a first-person POV, an almost infallible way to draw my full attention in, it moved like molasses. The narration felt more like a rundown of what a character, blurring the details – the feel and movement of the scene playing in the MC’s background – that add texture to the story. This lasts until the halfway mark where things, thankfully, start to finally pick up.
The F/F relationship between Jessie and Paulina, the daughter of the story’s villain, added an extra kick to this story. The pair’s dynamics kind of reminded me of Killing Eve’s Eve Polastri and Villanelle, only they’re a lighter version. The twist involving these two right about the last 50 or so pages of the book was something I did not see coming and truly surprises me in a very good way.
Overall, The Athena Protocol stayed true to what it advertised itself to be – a compulsive YA thriller that’ll have its readers biting their nails. The bond its characters had is this book’s greatest strength. However, the slow start and the lack of character growth took its toll on me and impacted my reading enjoyment. Still, even if I didn’t love this book as much as I thought I would, I think it will find its audience in YA thriller fans especially those who crave spy stories.
SHAMIM SARIF is an award-winning novelist, screenwriter, and director born in the UK.
Her debut novel, The World Unseen was inspired by her family’s South African Indian heritage. The book won a Betty Trask award and the Pendleton May First Novel award.
Shamim has adapted and directed the films of all three of her novels including, most recently, Despite the Falling Snow. The book was published by Headline in the UK and St. Martin’s Press in the US. The movie stars Rebecca Ferguson and Charles Dance in a story of love and betrayal in cold war Russia. Her films have won 47 awards internationally.
An accomplished speaker, Shamim has spoken at TED events worldwide, at the INK Conference in India and DLD in Munich. Corporate speaking events have included Deloitte, Goldman Sacs, Citibank, and Disney.
Shamim lives in London with her wife, Hanan, and their two sons.
Giveaway ends October 16th.