Book Review: Black Dove, White Raven

Black Dove, White Raven
Published By: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: March 31, 2015
Page Count: 368
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction

Black Dove, White Raven is my first experience with Elizabeth Wein's writing. I have heard amazing things about Code Name Verity so I was excited to gain access to the e-ARC of this one. (I know, I know - I need to work in Code Name Verity sooner rather than later.) I love a well researched historical fiction that can teach me something new. I know virtually nothing about Ethiopia or its history. I was fascinated to see what this country was like on the brink of WWII.

Em and Teo are raised as brother and sister, but things in the United States aren't all peaches and roses. Em is white and the daughter of an American woman who fell in love with an Italian pilot during WWI. Teo is black and the son of an American woman who lived in Paris as a maid for Em's mother and the son of an Ethiopian pilot. Due to tragic circumstances, Teo is left an orphan. Em's mother immediately takes Teo in as her own and raises the two children as siblings. The difference in skin color is never an issue within the family, but Teo isn't always treated well by others in their small Pennsylvania town. In order to give Teo a chance at equality and realize a dream of his deceased mother, the family packs up and heads off to Ethiopia.

For the first few years, living in Ethiopia is like a dream come true for Em and Teo. Racial conflict is not as prevalent and the children are equals in the eyes of society. Their mother's flying ability sets the children apart, but other than that they live a fairly normal and happy life. As the winds begin to change and war looms on the horizon, Rhoda, Em and Teo's mother, begins to fear that her family will be drawn into the conflict between Italy and Ethiopia. Teo is technically an Ethiopian citizen since it is the homeland of his father and young boys are being conscripted left and right. Rhoda takes to the skies to teach her children how to fly in order to help them escape danger. 

Teo takes to flying like a fish to water, but Em is more hesitant. She loves to be in the air, but doesn't enjoy controlling the plane on her own. Their skills as pilots will shape their destinies as Italy begins attacking various towns and villages throughout Ethiopia.

I loved the intriguing writing style of this one. It is not told in a typical narration form but rather through essays, stories, and flight logs written by Em and Teo. It was nice to get perspective from both characters as the story unfolded. I wasn't expecting this format so it was a bit jarring in the beginning, but it soon became clear that this was the perfect method for telling this story. It was almost as if I was a historian collecting primary source documents to piece together a larger understanding of these peoples' lives.

In addition to the narration style, I also loved the bond between Em and Teo. They are not only siblings, but best friends. The friendship between these two transcends racial and cultural lines. It was refreshing to see two people in this time period defying society in order to continue to make their relationship work. I also admired there dedication to one another. There were moments when they put their life on the line to be sure the other would be safe. This is not always an easy feat.

My one complaint was that some moments were more interesting than others. I wasn't a fan of the story segments that Em and Teo wrote; I preferred the essays and the flight logs. I found the beginning to be valuable for setting up the reasons for the move to Ethiopia, but it was largely uneventful and didn't hold my attention. I found that the novel truly hit its stride for me around the 40% mark. Once the war begins in full force, I was well and truly hooked. This one packs an emotional wallop - there were moments when my teeth clenched, moments when my heart raced, and moments when my eyes welled up with tears.

Black Dove, White Raven is the perfect read for those looking for a historical fiction novel with a heavy dose of adventure.

One Last Gripe: I was frustrated by how the Italians viewed Rhoda and Em. I know gender stereotypes were the dominant view back then, but that doesn't mean it can't irk me.

Favorite Thing About This Book: Learning about Ethiopian history

First Sentence: Sinidu told me I should aim for the sun.

Favorite Character: I loved Em and Teo equally.

Least Favorite Character: the Italian captain

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.


  1. The Ethiopian history appeals to me greatly! Great review!


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