Cover of The Shadow Mission, featuring a girl running with a cityscape at the top and bottom of the image.

About the Book

Title: The Shadow Mission (The Athena Protocol #2)
Published: 2020
Series: The Athena Protocol
Swoonworthy Scale: 6

Cover Story: Awkward
BFF Charm: Meh
Talky Talk: Laconic
Bonus Factors: Location, Teamwork
Anti-Bonus Factor: Gratuitous Tragedy
Relationship Status: Sophomore Slump

Cover Story: Awkward

She’s supposed to be running, but who moves like that when they run? And the triangles are back. It’s slightly less awkward than the first cover, but not by much.

The Deal:

The Athena Group has a new mission: protect a girls’ boarding school they founded in Mumbai from being destroyed by a terrorist group called Family First. Agent Jessie Archer teams up with a young (and cute) local police detective, Riya Kapoor, to track the terrorists down, but the conspiracy is farther-reaching than any of them know.

BFF Charm: Meh

BFF charm with a :-| face

Jessie might be less reckless and immature than she was in the first book, but she doesn’t have any character development either. She pretty much stays the same from beginning to end. Even though something very serious happens at the end that she claims has changed her forever, we don’t see any evidence of this change. It might show up in a third volume, but so far Sarif hasn’t shown any signs of continuing the series.

Swoonworthy Scale: 6

I really liked Riya, Jessie’s love interest, to the point that I wish she had been the narrator instead. She goes through a full character arc: from a by-the-book officer to a resourceful thinker who’s willing to bend the rules, but never loses sight of whom she’s protecting. She’s also a proud lesbian in a conservative society, which makes her an expert in the art of dropping hints: 

“I’m never going to make my parents happy and find a suitable young man. It’s just not who I am,” she says simply.

“I understand that,” I say.

“Do you?” Her gaze meets mine, earnest.


For a moment, we just look at each other, and the seconds seem to stretch out painfully, pleasurably.

Talky Talk: Laconic

Jessie’s narrative style is the same as it was in the first book, so there’s not much to say about it. I did like her observations about the way Indians speak English, and how expressions like “thrice” and “posthaste” are still in use even though they’re considered old-fashioned in Britain. 

Bonus Factor: Location

The Gateway to India archway in Mumbai, India, in front of a pink and blue sunset

I like stories set in places I’ve never been to, and Sarif really makes Mumbai come to life. She writes about the character of different neighborhoods, the driving customs, etc. (honking your horn is polite, who knew?) with confident familiarity.

Bonus Factor: Teamwork

A group of people with colorful sleeves put their hands on top of each other in the middle of a circle

Unlike the last book when Jessie went rogue, this time we get to see a lot more of Athena working as a team. Jessie and Hala, for example, conduct a scarily effective good cop/bad cop interrogation; bonus points for Jessie knowing Hala well enough to understand the traumatic past that inspires her fake threats. (At least, I hope those threats were fake.)

Anti-Bonus Factor: Gratuitous Tragedy

I do understand that in a high-stakes action thriller, characters sometimes need to be killed to show that the danger is real. Personally, though, I found the death at the end of this book unnecessary. It’s hard to explain without spoilers, but it felt less like a logical part of the story and more like an attempt to push the reader’s tear duct buttons. 

Relationship Status: Sophomore Slump

Sorry, Book, you’re a fun read, just not as challenging as your predecessor, and that ending let me down. Let me know if there’s ever a sequel.

Literary Matchmaking

The Athena Protocol (The Athena Protocol #1)

If you’ve read this far, you’ve likely already read Sarif’s The Athena Protocol.


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

A Spy in the House (The Agency #1)

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

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