The Athena Protocol by Shamin Sarif
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.<br< span=””> 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 sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.</br<>
Spy thrillers will never fail to be straight-up cool, and The Athena Protocol is no exception to this. It’s a James Bond-esque story starring women and with lots of action and adventure from start to finish.
Here, the spies aren’t working for the government, which was an interesting change; instead, it’s a small, private, almost vigilante organization called Athena, with three heads and three main agents who work undercover to save women from dangerous situations.
Jessie was a really great main character; she’s tough and resourceful, if impulsive and reckless. There were so many tight situations she wormed her way out of that it had me in absolute awe. After a reckless decision early in the book, Jessie finds herself operating without the help of Athena for a lot of the book, and it’s really great at showing how clever she really is and how much she cares about the people in her life, even when they’ve abandoned her.
And a lot of the book focuses on the people in Jessie’s life. There’s Kit, Jessie’s mother, whom she has a very complicated relationship with; her teammates, Hala and Caitlin, and the two other leaders of Athena, Li and Peggy. The Athena Protocol explores all these relationships in depth, but the one that fascinated me most was Jessie and Kit, which is one of the most complex and real mother/daughter relationships I’ve read in YA. In addition, Jessie and the daughter of the human trafficker Athena is taking down, Paulina, spend a lot of the book flirting. Jessie being queer was so lowkey in the story, but it was nice.
One thing that bothered me, however, was that Jessie didn’t seem like a teenager; if the book wasn’t YA, I’d have pegged her for twenty-four, minimum, and I don’t think the book ever directly says her age but I really can’t see her or frankly any of the characters as younger than nineteen. They all seem far too experienced and mature.
The plot made the book practically unputdownable. Jessie gets herself in and out of so many dangerous situations that the book had me on the edge of my seat. The people that Athena go after are wholly evil, human traffickers, corrupted politicians and the like, so the cathartic need to see bad things happen to them also kept me reading. It’s tense and packed with action but leaves a lot of moments for emotional beats.
If you like a good, fast-paced story about clever women and justice, definitely pick up The Athena Protocol. It entirely succeeds in being a fun, fast, well-crafted spy thriller, and leaves room for a sequel that I will definitely be hoping for.
content warnings | human trafficking, rape mentions
representation | sapphic main character, characters of colour (arab, black, chinese)
what are your favourite spy books?? have you read the athena protocol??