Review: The Athena Protocol

Posted: November 19, 2019 by in Books We Like...and Hate (2.6/5 single_star) Meta: Shamim Sarif, Thriller, Young Adult

Jessie, Caitlin, and Hala are a team. Not a team associated with a government or mercenary group; instead, they work for a secret organization known as Athena. With plenty of advanced tech and weapons training, their mission is to bring justice to women around the world.

While on a mission in Africa to free kidnapped schoolgirls, Jessie shoots a target instead of turning him over to the proper authorities. The resulting chaos exposes Athena to possible investigation and scrutiny and the trio of women who run Athena kick Jessie out. This is especially rough for Jessie because her mother is one of Athena’s leaders.

The main plot of Shamim Sarif’s THE ATHENA PROTOCOL (Amazon) focuses on what happens after Jessie’s expulsion from the group. With Jessie gone, the team will be one woman short as they travel to Belgrade, hoping to steal the evidence to stop Gregory Pavlic, a notorious human trafficker.

When Jessie uncovers information that Pavlic’s daughter, Paulina, has been receiving mysterious payments that the rest of the team doesn’t know about, she decides to follow them to Belgrade and investigate the new lead herself. As Jessie follows the clues about Gregory’s dirty dealing in Belgrade, she realizes that there’s a lot the Athena team doesn’t know and begs to be let back on the mission. Rebuffed, Jessie must continue to follow the trail she’s uncovered, all while finding herself increasingly attracted to Paulina Pavlic–and her crush makes it hard for Jessie to tell if she’s found potential ally or foe.

I enjoyed THE ATHENA PROTOCOL’s premise that there’s a team of kick-butt women working to secretly intervene around the world in order to advance women’s rights. While there are plenty of women in thrillers, it’s nice to read a story about not just one woman surrounded by men, but a team of women and female friends working together.

Indeed, the narrative was most successful when the Athena team worked together, Sarif having created a nice tension between all of the personalities. Unfortunately, Jessie works alone for most of the book and while there’s still plenty of plot and relational tension, I wasn’t as interested in just spending time with Jessie.

Jessie fights for what she believes in, she has a believably (and understandably) difficult relationship with her mom, and she’s cool and competent under pressure. It’s not her fault that she also might be the least interesting character in the novel.

The three women running Athena have all seen some…stuff… and so have Jessie’s peers. Caitlin served in Iraq and suffers from PTSD. Hala fled Syria as a refugee and is still worried about various family members left overseas. Tragedy can act as cheaply traded shortcut to making characters interesting, but here it was effective.

While the main character falls a little flat, THE ATHENA PROTOCOL is a tidy thriller about a group working to bring justice to women around the world.

I don’t think Jessie needs the same kind of tragic backstory as the rest of Athena, but I did want to get a better sense of her passion. Passion is just as interesting as tragedy, and by the end of the book I still couldn’t tell you what Jessie loved about her work other than a really high-level sense of moral satisfaction. While Jessie’s feelings for Paulina come through nicely, her work for Athena just seems like…work. We see her being competent, completing tasks and overcoming obstacles, but she doesn’t seem to take much pride in these accomplishments.

While Jessie’s character fell a little flat, THE ATHENA PROTOCOL is a tidy little thriller. Women with lots of tech gadgets, weapons, and last minute saves? If that sounds like your cup of tea, it’s probably worth a look.

  • Recommended Age: 13+
  • Language: Almost none
  • Violence: One more graphic scene at the beginning. The rest was fairly clinical. Hand-to-hand combat & shoot-outs.
  • Sex: Sexual violence mentioned and implied.

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