Cover of The Athena Protocol, featuring a young woman in shadow sitting gin front of a lit red triangle

About the Book

Title: The Athena Protocol (The Athena Protocol #1)
Published: 2019
Series: The Athena Protocol
Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Cover Story: Womanspreading
BFF Charm: Oda Mae Brown
Talky Talk: Laconic
Bonus Factors: Family, Diversity
Factor: Human Trafficking
Relationship Status: Thank You For Your Service

Cover Story: Womanspreading

Why is the model sitting like that? And what’s with the red triangle? Is it supposed to look like the letter A, or … Okay, better not to overthink it. At least the model looks sort of like Jessie. 

The Deal:

Jessie Archer is an operative of Athena, a private agency dedicated to saving women and children from human trafficking. The agency has a no-kill protocol, so when Jessie loses her temper and shoots a particularly nasty target, her superiors – including her mother, one of Athena’s founders – fire her. To prove herself, and also to protect her team/family, she decides to follow them on their next mission and investigate on her own. 

BFF Charm: Oda Mae Brown

BFF charm of Oda Mae Brown from GHOST

Sure, Jessie. Second-guess your highly trained and experienced leaders because they couldn’t do this job without you, even though you’ve only been on the team for a year. Go rogue and infiltrate a crime boss’s den all by yourself, after you literally just got fired for being too reckless. There’s no way this could possibly go wrong.

Swoonworthy Scale: 5

Jessie has all the usual spy character trust issues, so romance is a challenge, especially when flirting with a potential source of information. The swoon score might have been higher, though if not for a twist which you’ll probably see from the beginning. She’s basically a lesbian James Bond.

Talky Talk: Laconic

This is Jessie’s internal monologue when her mother checks on her after the failed mission:

“You okay?”

Lost my job. Made my first kill and I haven’t even been promoted. Having the time of my life.


If she weren’t the first-person narrator, we’d know hardly anything she was feeling. It makes one worry about her mental health, but as a stylistic choice for a character like this, it’s perfect.

Bonus Factor: Family

7 family members of all ages in a group hug

Jessie has a complicated but loving relationship with her mother Kit, a former rock star and recovering alcoholic, who was once an absent mother but is now dedicated to protecting women and children everywhere. The other members of Athena are a family too, balancing the risks they send each other into with care and loyalty, from small things like a nutrition plan to waiting outside someone’s hospital room all night.

Bonus Factor: Diversity

Faces of all different races, ethnicities and genders.

Athena was founded by African-American, Chinese, and English women. Their team includes a Middle Eastern and an Asian-British agent. They work together with mutual respect, but the author doesn’t ignore the potential for conflict. There is a painful but necessary moment where Jessie confronts her own bias against a POC teammate. 

Factor: Human Trafficking

I almost named this an anti-bonus factor because the practice itself is so horrible, but I do appreciate that the Athena group makes the survivors their first priority, taking care of them and helping them become independent. I would have liked to see a bit more of that side of the organization, even though it’s not exactly action thriller material.

Relationship Status: Thank You For Your Service

Dear Book, you just grabbed my hand and pulled me headlong out of a horrible situation. I’m truly grateful, but let’s not make a habit of this.

Literary Matchmaking

A Spy in the House (The Agency #1)

A Spy in the House by Y. S. Lee also features an organization of female spies.


Internment by Samira Ahmed is another story about fighting systemic violence written by a POC author.

The Ballad of Ami Miles

The Ballad of Ami Miles by Kristy Dallas Alley is a story about overcoming abuse from a survivor’s perspective.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received no compensation for this review. The Athena Protocol is available now.

Regina Peters works in the video game industry, but her favourite imaginary worlds are on paper. She lives in Montreal, Canada, with her family.