Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth WeinBlack Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein
Genre: Historical
Release Date: March 5, 2015
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: three-stars

A story of survival, subterfuge, espionage and identity.

Rhoda and Delia are American stunt pilots who perform daring aerobatics to appreciative audiences. But while the sight of two girls wingwalking – one white, one black – is a welcome novelty in some parts of the USA, it’s an anathema in others. Rhoda and Delia dream of living in a world where neither gender nor ethnicity determines their life. When Delia is killed in a tragic accident, Rhoda is determined to make that dream come true. She moves to Ethiopia with her daughter, Em, and Delia’s son, Teo.

Em and Teo have adapted to scratching a living in a strange land, and feel at home here; but their parents’ legacy of flight and the ability to pilot a plane places them in an elite circle of people watched carefully by the Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, who dreams of creating an air force for his fledgling nation. As Italy prepares for its invasion of Ethiopia, Em and Teo find themselves inextricably entangled in the crisis — and they are called on to help.

It seems like I say this with every book I read, but my review for Black Dove, White Raven was a difficult one to write. I had a lot of trouble separating my love for Wein’s previous books and my feelings for this one, so I think I have talked a load of nonsense. Anyway, read on.

So, I liked this one. Black Dove, White Raven was okay. Just okay. In comparison to Code Name Verity, which I have placed on a throne made of dismembered aeroplanes, it wasn’t great. But when I took a step back and really thought about it, I actually quite liked it. But it wasn’t up to Wein’s usual standard, unfortunately.

The main thing I felt Black Dove, White Raven was missing was the bond of friendship. Code Name Verity really set the standard for amazing friendships and blurred lines, and Rose Under Fire had a wonderful bond between a couple of characters. Black Dove, White Raven, however, missed the mark entirely. Yes, it was more about family than the other two books, but I didn’t feel a connection between Teo and Em at all. Which was weird, because they were the titular characters and were apparently this awesome team. But I didn’t feel anything for them at all when they were together.

It must be said though that separately these two characters were great. Em’s point of view, especially with her fear of flying, was wonderful to read, and I loved being inside Teo’s head as he first discovered his homeland, and then later as the war broke out.

I adore historical fiction so the setting was my favourite thing about this book. While I think Wein excels more when it comes to characters than describing the setting, I love that Black Dove, White Raven was set at a time in history that is rarely talked about. The Italo-Ethiopian war had a huge impact on what happened with Hitler and WWII, and yet it is barely talked about because it didn’t happen in Europe or in the USA. I really love the fact that Elizabeth Wein decided to explore those couple of years and the war itself some more.

All that said, I found Black Dove, White Raven to be an incredibly slow read. Yes, I was in a reading slump for the most part, and that undoubtedly had an impact on how much I enjoyed the book, but it still didn’t grip me. Mostly because the bond between friends wasn’t there, and it was unable to carry the story. The first half of the book is pretty much a set-up, and then the final 80% seems very rushed.

Anyway, I did enjoy the book, but I thought it could have been improved upon. I really liked the characters as individuals but their relationship was missing that spark for me. I loved all of the historical parts (which is a weird thing to say since it’s an historical fiction novel, I know) because, hello, history buff here. I would recommend picking it up, even though it’s a terrible shame that it doesn’t live up to the awesome that is Code Name Verity, or even Rose Under Fire.

6 comments on “Black Dove, White Raven by Elizabeth Wein

  1. Bec @ Readers in Wonderland 17/02/2015 12:08 am

    I don’t know if anything is ever going to live up to Code Name Verity. That book… Words cannot adequately describe how amazing it was.

    Sucks that Black Dove, White Raven didn’t have as strong of a friendship as you wanted. The partnership between the girls was the part of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire that really made it for me. Also the part that made the stories super heartbreaking.

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed this overall! And I hope you get out of that slump soon (if you haven’t already)

    • Amber 23/02/2015 9:13 pm

      So true, Bec, so true. Nothing will ever live up to CNV! And I definitely think that the friendships in both CNV and RUF were what made the books epic. There was a friendship in this one but I just wasn’t feeling it 🙁

  2. Maddy E 17/02/2015 2:36 am

    I agree that Wein’s strength is the characters, and the relationship between Maddie and Julie was the best part of Code Name Verity to me. “Kiss me, Hardy” basically destroyed me. It’s disappointing to hear that this one didn’t live up to Wein’s amazing standards.

    • Amber 23/02/2015 9:15 pm


  3. Hannah 18/02/2015 12:54 pm

    I think Code Name Verity is on a pedestal all of its own, but it’s still disappointing that this one didn’t measure up. I’m a big fan of historical fiction books that deal with aspects of history that I don’t know about – like the Italo-Ethiopian war you mentioned – so I think I’ll be giving this one a go, albeit with lower expectations.

    • Amber 23/02/2015 9:18 pm

      I totally agree! Not many things can live up to CNV. I hope you enjoy this one, though!

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