Black Dove, White Raven: A Book Review


Black Dove, White RavenTitle: Black Dove, White Raven
Author: Elizabeth Wein
Published: March 31st, 2015 by Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult / Historical Fiction
Source: Library / Hardcover
Series: Nope!

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 1930’s 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. {Goodreads}

While I don’t want to be so quick as to pigeonhole authors into certain genres, I unconsciously do it all the same. I’ve come to expect outstanding contemporary novels from Morgan Matson, thrilling fantasy and science fiction books from Marissa Meyer, and hilarious, engaging mysteries from Stuart Gibbs. Talented writers know where their strengths lie, a point illustrated no better than Elizabeth Wein, who has made her name in war-focused historical fiction. Her popular young adult books Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire demonstrate Wein’s knowledge of World War II and the roles of young pilots in heart-wrenching, well-written plots; her newest novel, Black Dove, White Raven is no less of an exceptional read. Rarely does a book leave me speechless {it’s the book reviewer in me :)}, but Wein has it done it not once, not twice, but three times. She’s blown me away, as I have no doubt she’ll do to you too.

World War II frequently appears in historical fiction for any age. The events of the war are nothing to take lightly, but the variety of emotions and vivid history they provide make for complex and beautiful works of writing. Black Dove, White Raven does not take place during the war, but rather, a few years before when Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in 1935. As far as I know, this period has been left untouched before Wein took it on, but she doesn’t abuse such a privilege; her research into the setting and subject is evident, and Wein wastes no detail in developing the plot and presenting the reality of the war to readers. Furthermore, the politics and tension of the time don’t overpower, but support, the journeys of the novel’s main characters, a common “pitfall” of historical fiction.

Elizabeth Wein couldn’t write a novel without mentioning aviation in some form. As its predecessors do, Black Dove, White Raven features female pilots that defy the stereotypes of the time, but here, Wein also tackles racial prejudice with utmost respect and insight. Her characters are a varied cast, from the young protagonists, Emilia and Teo, to their stunt pilots of mothers, Rhoda and Delia, but they all share in their courage and a longing for adventure. I loved Wein’s approach in writing this novel – she had Emilia and Teo narrate through school assignments, journals, and flight logs – as it effortlessly invites the reader into their lives. Even so, this unique dual narrative creates a dilemma for the audience; it’s all too easy to prefer one narrator to the other.

The only other place where Wein’s novels can fall short is in the pacing of the plot. In a book so rich with history, I find the chapters move more slowly as I work to absorb the details of the setting, the course of the story, and each and every character. Unfortunately, the slowness of the plot may lose the readers who were expecting more of “the historical thriller masterpiece” it’s marketed as, but I wasn’t bothered by it. The point at which the plot shifts from setting the foundation to the actual action is subtle, but I urge you to continue with the novel until the story picks up in pace.

From the moment I finished Code Name Verity only a few summers ago, I knew Elizabeth Wein would forever be a favorite. Since she had nothing left to prove when I read Black Dove, White Raven earlier this spring, Wein’s most recent novel only confirms what I already knew: she can write historical fiction, and she can write it well. This novel soars above the other historical fictions published this year, bringing readers on a flight that’s neither easy to describe nor forget.

Need more convincing? Here’s what other reviewers had to say.
“It’s a wonderful portrayal of how children get caught up in war through no fault of their own.  It’s also a wonderful portrayal of family and community and how humans seek out a place for themselves.  I’m definitely still a fan” {read the rest of the review at In Bed With Books HERE}.

Black Dove, White Raven has an incredible concept, but it just didn’t match quality of Code Name Verityand Rose Under Fire for me. It’s weighed down by backstory, particularly when it comes to Em and Teo’s unconventional childhood. I wanted to see more of them as teenagers” {read the rest of the review at Daisy Chain Book Reviews HERE}.

“Get it soon especially if you enjoy historical fiction. Black Dove, White Raven is interesting from start to finish – even the author’s note kept my attention” {read the rest of the review at Rich in Color HERE}.

Have an amazing Tuesday!

Psst. Need another book review to read?! My third post went up today at Lit-Up Review – take a peek HERE!


5 thoughts on “Black Dove, White Raven: A Book Review

  1. Elizabeth Wein’s books have blown me away every time, too, and even though I haven’t yet read Black Dove White Raven, I’m sure it’ll be just as good. I don’t mind that it’s a little bit slow because I actually enjoy it when books start out slow and then speed up towards the end. I’ve come to expect raw honesty from Elizabeth Wein’s books no matter what, and that can make up for a slightly slower pace anytime. I really hope I get to read this book soon!


    • If you enjoyed Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, you’ll definitely like this one. I hope you find a copy of it and/or time to read it soon! :)


  2. […] Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein | “Since she had nothing left to prove when I read Black Dove, White Raven earlier this spring, Wein’s most recent novel only confirms what I already knew: she can write historical fiction, and she can write it well.“ […]


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