Review: Black Dove, White Raven

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Title:
Black Dove, White Raven

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Rating: ★★★

Provided Synopsis: 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.

Review: Historical? Yes. Thriller? Not so much.

With its historical setting in Ethiopia during the conflict with the Italians before the official onset of World War II, Black Dove, White Raven had high and low points as a novel of historical fiction in accordance with my demands. By this I mean that I am the type of reader who enjoys this genre because it either expands upon the knowledge I already have, or it teaches me something entirely new. I have read plenty of stories about WWII, but none of them had ever made me aware of a war between Mussolini’s Italians and the Ethiopians. To be honest, I do not believe that I have ever read a book set in Ethiopia at all. For this reason, I felt this book could hit very high points when it delved into the way of life in Ethiopia and the issue of slavery. These were the moments when I really reached out to the story.

Why this book is advertised as a thriller, however is a mystery to me. The tension never felt high enough, even when in the face of warfare. To learn about a war in this region interested me, yet I could never feel as invested within the fighting because the book only flittered around the edge towards the end of the story. If you have read Elizabeth Wein’s previous work, Code Name Verity, then you might be as disappointed with this removal from action as I was. I know you should never go into a book expecting it to be the same as works already published, but in this case I found it to be difficult to make the separation. I wanted to experience the tension as told through the writings of the main characters, because it is through that tension that I am better able to immerse myself within the story and make a connection those involved. Em and Teo were good characters, but they definitely told the story more than they drew me into it. Something was missing.

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