Protector Review

Protector Review | Conn Iggulden

The Gates of Athens is one of my most popular book reviews on here. When offered the chance to read the sequel, I couldn’t resist, keen to see what happened next. We’re returning to Ancient Greece today, for a mix of battles, politics and drama. Here’s my Protector review.

Publisher: Penguin UK/Michael Joseph | Date: 2021 | Genre: Historical fiction

Persian King Xerxes stands over the smoking ruins of Athens, an army of slaves at his back.

Come to destroy, once and for all, everything that the city stands for, he stares pitilessly at the hopelessly outnumbered Greeks. Veteran soldier Themistocles cannot push the Persians back by force on land, and so he so does so by stealth, at sea.

Over three long days, the greatest naval battle of the ancient world will unfold, a bloody war between the democracy of Athens and the tyranny of Persia.

Less than a year later, the Persian return to reconquer the Greeks.

Tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides ready themselves for war.

For the Spartans, Plataea is chance to avenge their defeat at Thermopylae.

For the people of Athens, threatened on all sides, nothing less than the survival of democracy is at stake. And once again Themistocles, the hero of Salamis, will risk everything – his honour, his friendships, even his life – to protect his country.

I received Protector from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Protector Review

Protector Review

Having enjoyed the first book, I knew what I was getting into with Protector. It’s a solid read, interesting to any historical fiction fan who enjoys reading about Ancient Greece. A few points stop it being five stars, but I enjoyed this.


Despite this book being about war, it’s a character-centric read. The majority of the plot shifts between three main protagonists, although a number of secondary characters also have their moment.

Xanthippus is calm and balanced, not driven by power but by the need to keep his family safe. Perhaps because of this serenity, I found it harder to connect and get into his head compared to the previous book. As events unfold and Xanthippus suffers from a personal tragedy, he withdraws and you barely see him for the final part. It felt an unsatisfying ending for him – he just disappears.

While Aristides is one of the main narrators, it’s hard finding the words to describe him. He just… is? He’s a humble man, and shows his bravery in battle, standing against impossible odds. He knows his strengths, and when others are better suited for the task – a refreshing trait in a character. But you never see what makes him tick.

Themistocles is the one you get to know the best; the one whose passions run high and you know his thoughts. Unfortunately, I never liked him. He’s self-centred and arrogant, and even if he did bring about some victories, you want someone to take him down a peg or two.

Other countries had always known when to lie down, when to give up. It seemed no one had told the Greeks. Though it was madness, perhaps it was its own strength as well.

Protector by Conn Iggulden


The narration switches rapidly between different characters. I kept getting thrown off – just as one arc gains momentum, you’re suddenly with someone else, in a different place, fighting another battle.

It created tension, though – you have to wait to see if they’re going to come out the other side of their fight. There’s a calm approach to these battles: you don’t witness the characters’ fear or bloodlust, but the confusion and the poor visibility. There wasn’t the usual squirming over details the way I’ve done with other historical reads.

As with the previous book, I found the pacing varied. The battles and climatic moments are all handled well. But there’s a lot of talk and politics. It was interesting – I loved finding out more about how the system worked back in those days. But it dragged at times.


Again, following the style of The Gates of Athens, half the plot is set during a battle, half the consequences of that fight. This made it an interesting mix of events taking place. However, sometimes it felt there could have been more balance: we go from three large-scale battles taking place, to a mass of politics and back-stabbing.

Final Thoughts

I enjoyed this book. It’s a solid read and enlightening for anyone with an interest in this time period. I wanted to connect to the characters more, but given the type of men they were, this distance also worked. I’d say one to look out for if this interests you.

Are you into historical fiction? Is this your sort of book?

Also in the series:

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33 thoughts on “Protector Review | Conn Iggulden

  1. I’m not a huge fan of historical fiction but it’s great to see how many others love it. I’m really pleased that you enjoyed this book in the series. I always worry whenever I pick up a sequel that it I won’t enjoy it as much as the first.


    • Oh me too! I think this one might have been a struggle if I wasn’t aware of what I was going to get due to the pacing of the first one, which helped.


  2. I am not generally into historic fiction. I enjoy books on Greek myth but as days go by I find it harder to have patience for historic books, honestly. Mood reading drives it all haha.


    • They weren’t all like that though, and it did make for an interesting contrast but for sure, I couldn’t connect with that particular character.


  3. I do enjoy historical fiction but try to stick to my fave time period of post WWII. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book.


  4. Although you said it’s very character driven, any book about war instantly overwhelms me haha! Glad you enjoyed this one!


  5. I usually enjoy a book that shares narration but if you get thrown off, I’d have no chance!! War stories aren’t my usual bag but I’m really trying to mix things up in my reading



  6. This sounds like a great read! I love anything set in Ancient Greece and never heard about this book, so totally adding it to my list! I love historical fiction but haven’t read one in quite a while, great review x


  7. Such an interesting review! I haven’t read the series but enjoying hearing your thoughts on this. I read historical fiction from time to time, so it’s always nice to know solid reads like this can go on the list.


  8. I love this kind of thing! It sounds like something I’d love. The pacing sounds a little tricky but the plot sounds worth it. I’m glad the sequel wasn’t a disappointment x


  9. I haven’t heard of this book before, it is not my normal genre to read. But you have shared a detailed and well written review. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.


  10. This sounds great! I’m always into books about war because of how complex they are but also I’m not into historical fiction (I like fantasy wars) so this may or may not be my book haha.


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