Black Dove White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 31st, 2015 by Doubleday Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House
Note: A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for my honest review. All opinions expressed here are completely honest and completely my own.
This is the first book by Elizabeth Wein that I have picked up. I’ve heard rave reviews of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire, but for some reason never picked them up. However, I was lucky enough to receive a copy of her latest book from Random House Canada in the spring.
Black Dove White Raven revolves around pseudo siblings Emilia and Teo in the 1930’s. Their adventure starts in Paris, then moves to America, then Ethiopia.
Em and Teo were raised along side one another, their mothers—Rhoda and Delia—are best friends. Rhoda and Delia were among the first female pilots, making a living pulling stunts in the air. They move around a lot because they face a lot of discrimination—not only for their gender, but because Delia and Teo are black. When the children are still young, a terrible accident leaves this foursome a threesome, as Delia dies in a crash.
Rhoda then raises both Em and Teo together. To put an end to the discrimination they face, Rhoda decides to follow Delia’s dream—she is going to take the children to Ethiopia, the homeland of Teo’s late father.
As Em and Teo come of age and learn to fly, the ground underneath them shifts as Italy threatens war. This has huge ramifications for their family not only in the obvious ways, but because Teo is technically a citizen and an able bodied one. They love Ethiopia and it’s people, but are also fiercely loyal to one another. Torn in so many ways, how will they survive?
As these two grow and change, each thread of their story weaves together to form an incredibly interesting book.
I have never read a book quite like it. It’s such an interesting concept set in a great time period. As Em and Teo become teenagers, Rhoda finally relents to teach them to fly. This has an interesting effect on the narration. The story changes perspectives between Em and Teo, and takes the form of the flight logs Rhoda made them keep.
As time goes on, we get a look at a really interesting period in history. The World War II era is always interesting, but it’s especially neat reading about it from a different side. I have never read about Ethiopia before, and know very little about it. But this book gives a pretty neat snapshot into it’s history and culture. One of my favourite things I learned about is the history of the Ethiopian Church and the Ark of the Covenant. Whether or not it’s true, the church there believes they have it, and keep it secluded, attended to only by one priest whose sole purpose is to guard it. No one else is allowed to lay eyes on it. Therefore, there is no evidence that it is the actual Ark, but their belief that it is is foundational to their faith.
I really enjoyed getting to know Em and Teo, and see how they faced the difficulties that laid ahead of them—and there were many. All the relationships in this book are so complex and well developed.
So, basically, this book is great. It’s a wonderful historical young adult novel with unique characters and setting. If you like historical fiction, definitely pick this one up. If you like action, political intrigue, and great character arcs, again, definitely pick this one up.
Highly recommend! I will definitely be doing a backlist binge!
Beth is the founder and editor of Fuelled by Fiction. She is a twenty-something east coast Canadian girl who loves writing about books and feminism.