Red Sparrow is the first book in the Red Sparrow Trilogy by Jason Matthews.


In today’s Russia, dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence.

The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller. [1]

Characters Edit

  • Dominika Egorova - The story's main protagonist, she was a very talented and determined russian ballerina whose career was ruined after a severe injury on her foot. From a family of intellectuals, she also speaks french and english, besides russian. After the end of her career as a ballerina, Dominika was recruited by her uncle Vanya to work for the SVR. She was trained to become an intelligence officer, but against her will, she was later sent to the Sparrow School. There, she would learn how to seduce targets and steal secret information from them. Her synesthesia attributes allows her to read people's emotions thanks to the colors she sees around their heads. She has brown hair and cobalt-blue eyes.
  • Nathaniel Nash - The story's supporting protagonist, Nate is a intelligence officer from CIA's Russian Division. Graduated in Russian Literature, he's fluent in russian. He worked as a handler in Moscow but had his career compromised when he was identified by the SVR during a secret meeting with his mole MARBLE. For that reason, he lost his job at Moscow and was reassigned in Helsinki. Nate has black hair, brown eyes and a straight nose. He's thin and have an average height.
  • Vanya Egorov - Brother of Vassily Egorov and uncle of Dominika, he was the first deputy Director of the SVR. Vanya often uses his influence for his own interests and convinces Dominika to work for him by threatning her mother. He was not a present uncle for Dominika, neither had a close relationship with his brother. Even though he acts like he cares for his niece, he considered getting her killed after she became witness of a political assassination. He was also responsible for sending her to the Sparrow School against her will.
  • Vladimir Korchnoi - Chief of the Americas Department of the SVR, General Korchnoi becomes some sort of mentor to Dominika. He helps her during her first operation with Colonel Simyonov and even offers her a job at his department after the operation is interrrupted.
  • Tom Forysth - CIA's Chief of Station in Helsinki he becomes a supportive boss for Nate.
  • Marty Gable - CIA's Deputy Chief of Station in Helsinki, he is Nate's boss and friend. He doesn't bother to mince his words during meetings.
  • Colonel Simyonov
  • Dimitri Ustinov - Enemy of the Kremlin, he was a russian politician and mobster. He wasn't afraid of publicly expressing his disagreements with the Russian government. For that reason, he was assassinated by Matorin during Dominika's first operation for the SVR .
  • Vassily Egorov - Deceased father of Dominika and brother of Vanya, he was a reowned History professor at Moscow State University. During his life, he maintained a good reputation keeping his rebelious thoughts about the government for himself.
  • Nina Egorova - Mother of Dominika, she became a widow at the very beginning of the story. She had a prestigious career as a classic violinist once, but differing from Vassily, she had an explosive personality that lead to her dismissal from the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.
  • Alexei Zyuganov - Diminutive chief of Line KR, Zyuganov is a side character who works with Vanya Egorov. He used to work as a executioner for the KGB and is described as a "poisonous dwarf".
  • Sergey Matorin - Executioner for the SVR, he was often led by Zyuganov. His career dates since the old KGB years. He's described as having a cadaverous skull, gray hair and a opaque milky white eye.
  • Sonya Moroyeva - Dominika's classmate and rival. Along with her boyfriend Konstantin, Sonya sabotaged Dominika's career.
  • Konstantin - Sonya's boyfriend and Dominika's ballet partner. Konstantin injuried Dominika to sabotage her career.

Espionage and plausibility Edit

Red Sparrow is often praised by its plausibility and realistic portrayel of the Espionage world, not having many action sequences and no fancy gadgets. Goodreads for instance compares Matthews to acclaimed writer John le Carré (famous for his espionage novels)[1]. James Burridge and Michael Bradford, reviewers from the CIA, describe the novel as accurate:

Matthews himself said in a recent interview that he was “pleasantly surprised” by the small number of redactions and described the tradecraft as “old, classic stuff that’s been around since Biblical times.” The scenes in which Nate and Dominika course through urban landscapes in intricate, hours-long surveillance detection routes in order to get clean before a clandestine operational act are accurate, richly detailed renderings of anxiety-filled tasks conducted daily by intelligence operatives around the world. [2]

 Awards Edit

  • 2014 Edgar Award for Best First Novel [3]
  • 2014 International Thriller Writer's Award for Best First Novel [4]

Book covers Edit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Goodreads
  2. CIA
  3. Mystery Writers of America
  4. International Thriller Writers