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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Review: Rose Under Fire

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Title: Rose Under Fire

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Rating: ★★★★

Provided Synopsis: While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbr ck, the notorious women’s concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that’s in store for her?

Review: Once upon a time I read a book titled Code Name Verity and was completely blown away by the creativity and emotional impact that I felt. So when I heard that Elizabeth Wein was to write another book with a female heroine during World War II, I was immediately excited and knew that I was not going to be disappointed. And I wasn’t.

Rose Under Fire tells the story of a young American pilot named Rose Justice. She has chosen to fly in a civilian capacity role for the British during the war, and when the story begins she is rather naïve about the horrors of the war, which I think Wein illustrates very well with the lack of depth of Rose’s early poetry. It is only when Rose’s plane is captured and taken by the Germans that the true horror of the war finds her and places her within the concentration camp of Ravensbruck. From here the story becomes one of survival; we learn of and see the atrocities being carried out in this women’s concentration camp, and the emotional depth of Rose’s poetry improves greatly as she is exposed to more and more horrors. In a way, this book is another example of how words are powerful, for they provide hope to those who string them together and those who listen to them. Like with Verity, this is also a story about the strong bonds and friendships between women.

Unlike Verity, however, Rose does not have the same strength in terms of an emotional punch. It is not written in the same structure as Verity, either, since Rose’s narrative is far easier to follow and contains none of the literary genius that was Julie’s prose. Those that found Verity difficult to read might find this story more accommodating to them, and those that loved Veritywill still enjoy this book but will surely be able to sense what it lacks. All in all, this is a must read for historical fiction lovers in search of a glimpse into a women’s concentration camp and the Nuremberg trials.

Review: Code Name Verity

Title: Code Name Verity Image

Author: Elizabeth Wein

Rating: ★★★★★

Provided Synopsis: Oct. 11th, 1943—A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.

As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage and failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy? 

Review: What a story. What a friendship.

I find it incredibly difficult to write a review for this book because there are so many nuances of it that you will want to discover on your own. I don’t want to give away spoilers.

What I can say is that you will fall in love with the strength of Verity’s voice. The story is told through a series of written testimonies that she must surrender to her Gestapo captors. Verity decides to start her tale at the beginning, speaking of her best friend Maddie, a pilot. Both women are involved in the English war effort during WWII; this is their journey, this is how they’ve come to be best friends, this is how Verity has ended up in the hands of the enemy. I’m truly just blown away by how well this story was written and how it culminated to its end. Please read this book.