By: John Fennell
Publication Date: October 2017
Reviewed by: Barbara Bamberger Scott
Review Date: December 29, 2018
A twisted thriller of international proportions, Raven and the Panther begins down home among kinfolk and ends with kindred souls facing a new world together.
Author John Fennell II began his life, and begins this book, in West Virginia. His central character is a teenaged girl whose wild and wily ways earn her the nickname Raven. As the book opens, she is living a quiet life at home with her aging but steely-minded mother Stella and her hardworking Uncle Bill. Her relationship with a boyfriend, Naci, has begun to heat up considerably, but when he insists he’ll leave West Virginia after high school to see the wider world, she feels she has lost him already. Then Stella passes, and she’d be totally alone if it weren’t for her kindly uncle. When he is killed, shot down in a public place while Raven is with him, Raven suddenly transforms into huntress, then spy, determined to figure out who killed her uncle and why.
The more Raven learns, the more she finds herself embroiled in a multi-level network of warring factions in her home territory and well beyond. Bill, she discovers, had a secret life as an operative for an organization dedicated to upholding politically conservative ideals against the evils of rapidly spreading liberalism. As Raven follows in Bill’s footsteps to infiltrate the enemy’s hierarchy and get revenge, she becomes a self-activated deadly weapon. Then she meets a man who is her equal, and together they go in for the final kill.
Fennell has constructed his book with episode upon episode of mounting tension and increasing violence. Set within what is apparently meant to mirror current trends, he uses the metaphor of “draining the swamp” and at one point, depicts Raven and her allies tracking down a former Secretary of State named “Hillary Benton” and giving her such a pounding that she will be ineffective in any future traitorous plans. The pauses between bloody hits and deep intrigue often involve highly erotic sexual encounters, some starring Raven, some merely casual occasions between other characters. Fennell is as skilled at painting sensuous scenes as in creating moments of raw violence. He also includes in the mix a bizarre sci-fi twist adding to the mystery: some of his characters are infused with a brain serum that gives them special, superhuman powers of cognition.
Though at times the rapid segues may prove confusing and the sex somewhat gratuitous, the author is to be commended for focusing on Raven and other admirably authoritative women as prime movers in this drama, and for keeping the action rolling on every page.
Quill says: Raven and the Panther deals with contentious, up-to-the-minute issues by highlighting powerful virtues of fearlessness and tenderness within the psyche of a resolute, uncompromising young female.
For more information on Raven and the Panther, please visit the author's website at: johnfennell.com