Trey Dowell’s The Protectors is an action-packed superhero thriller that never takes itself entirely seriously. The combination of superhero tropes that occasionally border on parody, and real world concerns could have failed miserably, but Dowell manages to balance the various tones, partly through relentless forward momentum.
Scott McAlister was once a superhero, the leader of the Protectors—the world’s only league of superheroes. The Protectors were more of a PR stunt than an actual team. Scott’s superhero name, Knockout, was chosen based on market research. Their public appearances for the UN choreographed by the CIA. Their superpowers, however, were very real, and not all of their missions were publicized. After a failed mission, Scott retired and has been more or less left alone for years, but now his ex-lover and former teammate, Lyla Ravzi, has gone rogue and the CIA want him to stop her plans for world domination by any means necessary.
The plot is not particularly original, but it doesn’t have to be. Dowell takes familiar tropes and gives them a serious and not so serious twist. Lyla’s superpower is fairly common, she can make anyone fall in love with her. Combined with her twisted idealism, this power has gone to her head. Her Iranian background hints at political and social concerns not often found in this genre, but the relentlessness of the plot means that these ideas serve mostly as background to more typical superhero shenanigans.
Scott, however, has an unusual and initially harmless or low key seeming power. His determination to save Lyla from herself and escape his CIA handlers form the backbone of the novel. Their relationship is intriguing and well developed.
The Protectors is full of government conspiracies, superhero action, and examines the mental and physical toll powers would take, and how the world would respond. It never looses sight, however, of the fundamental absurdity and fun in its premise. Dowell burns through plots and twists at a fast rate for better and for worse. The narrative momentum and palpable joy are the novel’s greatest strength, but it never lets the story take a breath.
Action packed and full of thrills, twists, and superhero shenanigans, The Protectors is exactly what it wants to be—fun.
**Received an Advance Copy from NetGalley for Review