A new historical thriller masterpiece from New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Elizabeth Wein
Emilia and Teo’s lives changed in a fiery, terrifying instant when a bird strike brought down the plane their stunt pilot mothers were flying. Teo’s mother died immediately, but Em’s survived, determined to raise Teo according to his late mother’s wishes-in a place where he won’t be discriminated against because of the color of his skin. But in 1930s America, a white woman raising a black adoptive son alongside a white daughter is too often seen as a threat.
Seeking a home where her children won’t be held back by ethnicity or gender, Rhoda brings Em and Teo to Ethiopia, and all three fall in love with the beautiful, peaceful country. But that peace is shattered by the threat of war with Italy, and teenage Em and Teo are drawn into the conflict. Will their devotion to their country, its culture and people, and each other be their downfall or their salvation?
In the tradition of her award-winning and bestselling Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein brings us another thrilling and deeply affecting novel that explores the bonds of friendship, the resilience of young pilots, and the strength of the human spirit.
Before we begin, I’d like to apologize to Black Dove, White Raven for reading it when I was definitely not in a proper mindset for it. Objectively, this is an amazing book, and I wish I’d read it at a different time when I could appreciate the brilliant atmosphere, characters, and relationships more. As it was, I read it around the time I had finals, and it was really difficult for me to concentrate and keep track of what was going on.
Code Name Verity is one of my favorite books that I read last year, so I was looking forward to the opportunity to read another Elizabeth Wein book–I have Rose Under Fire, but haven’t started it yet–and Black Dove, White Raven was just as good as I would have expected. Even putting aside the whole distracted-due-to-finals-stress thing that was going on with me the first two weeks of May, I don’t think this book was Code-Name-Verity-level amazing. It wasn’t the easiest book to get through, but I think it was worth it. There were family feelings and interesting historical stuff and planes and no shortage of amazing distinct characters and did I mention family feelings? It was heartwrenching and powerful, and even though it wasn’t the easiest thing to get through, I’m glad to have read it.
As I mentioned before, it was very difficult to keep track of the story. Not a lot really happened until the second half of the book, but at the same time there were so many names and places to keep track of that I often found myself getting lost or having difficulty maintaining my interest. There were sections I had to reread several times to figure out what exactly was going on. In addition, the book started of extremely slow; the action didn’t really start until the halfway point. Again, I’m not sure how much this was the book’s fault and how much it was mine, but still, this is something to keep in mind.
Unlike most World War II books I’ve read, which take place somewhere in Europe, this one is in Ethiopia, and focuses on the war between Ethiopia and Italy. I thought the setting was one of this book’s greatest strengths; as always, Elizabeth Wein has done her research and makes it come to life, and I learned about a subject that I’d originally only been vaguely familiar with through two paragraphs in my ninth grade history book. This is an excellent example of a book that made me learn new things, which doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. In addition, the atmosphere of the book is totally different from anything else I’ve read.
I also love the family dynamics–Em and Teo’s relationship with each other, and with Rhoda, and with Delia (who, despite dying before the story really starts, plays such an important role). The relationships were so complex and beautiful; there were repeated lines and themes throughout the book that made me emotional whenever they showed up. I love the building tension, and the balance between darkness and hope. And, as is par for course, there are (a) awesome plane-flying sequences, and (b) passages that make my heart shatter. It doesn’t hurt that Elizabeth Wein’s writing is beautiful, and every word perfectly placed.
I definitely recommend this, especially if you liked Code Name Verity or Rose Under Fire or are interested in World War II or family dynamics. Just make sure you have the time and patience to fully appreciate it.