Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

Black Dove, White Ravenby Elizabeth Wein 

Expected publication: March 31st 2015
by Disney-Hyperion

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.

My Thoughts

Black Dove White Raven is heart wrenching, powerful tale about Em & Teo, who become caught between fighting for the country they have grown to love and fighting for each other. Wein has never been one to shy away from difficult topics and this books runs the gamut as she touches on Racism, Fascism, Gender Bias, and the dealing with the loss of a loved one set to a 1930's back drop.

Em and Teo have been raised together and are as close as any real blood sibling if not closer. Their mothers, Rhoda and Delia are best friends and have a performing aerial show where they took the stage names of Black dove & White Raven. When Teo's mother is killed during a flight and Em's mother succumbs to her grief due to her Delia sized hole in her heart, Teo and Em must truly begin to rely on each other. This tragedy serves only to cement the bond they have already developed sadly as most tragedies have a way of doing. Rhoda eventually decides to fulfill her best friend wish to see her children be able to live in a place where they are not under constant scrutiny due the color of their skin by moving them to Ethiopia.

Before they get to the big move Em and Teo travel to Em's grandparents in Bucks County, PA (which is weird since my husband I used to live there). They assume their mother's stage names and create stories to pass the time and also to try to occasionally reach Rhoda in her melancholy state. I found these characters fascinating since they so very much reflected the lives they were leading, Black Dove (Teo) could make himself completely invisible and White Raven (Em) was a master of disguise who was never to reveal her true identity. I thought these correlations were very clever indeed. In 1930's quaker PA things were not as progressive as you might think. Teo was mercilessly teased for his race and hampered appearance while em was teased that her mother was crazy. Out of a need for escape they used their characters for Em to become someone else and Teo to just become invisible. Once they finally arrived in Ethiopia, I felt is was another unique  for the tables to have turned and for em to be the one trying to be invisible while Teo became the master of disguise. Very clever word play indeed.

In typical Wein fashion, a good portion of the narration occurred through written stories, letters, random poems, and flight logs. The pacing was a bit slow for my taste but but I also had a bit of trouble following the more historical aspects of the book. As Teo & Em got older and went to pilot for the Emperor, the book took a distinctly more political shift & there was some disconnect. Not that Ethiopia wasn't something I enjoyed learning about but, it just didn't resonate with me the way that Code Name Verity, a book on the second World War, did. It may simply be because I know so very little about the Fascist movement itself. At any rate I found myself a bit bored at times. I also had to seriously trudge through a bit of story to get back to the focus of Em & Teo.

The meat of Wein's writing which focuses predominantly on the relationships, thoughts, and emotions of her characters was still very abundant. The book excelled in that manner. There was also that riveting climax that I have come to expect from Wein's story telling. i was not let down in that manner.

If you can go into this a bit more open to the political happening I think you will be blown away. Wein creates historical fiction at its finest with love, loyalty, and friendship at the core of all of her writing. Black dove White Raven was a beautifully moving tale.

3.5 Snowflakes


  1. Fantastic review Britt! I cannot wait till I can focus on the book again, because I have other books now that I need to read right now, so hopefully next week!
    Thank you for the warning about the political issues!

  2. Elizabeth Wein is the author of two other highly acclaimed and prize-winning historical novels for young adults, Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, both set in World War II.

    Highly recommended.

    Hail Claim