Black Dove White Raven
March 31, 2015
Advanced copy received from NetGalley
In the1930s a tragic plane crash kills Deliah, one of the barnstorming duo of Black Dove and White Raven, leaving Rhoda, the White Raven, to raise Deliah’s African American son, Teo, alongside her own daughter, Em. Attempting to escape the racism of America, Rhoda takes the children to live in a small coffee farming town in Ethiopia where she serves as a nurse and teaches her kids and the locals how to fly her small airplane bought for her by her Italian husband and Em’s father who serves in the Mussolini’s air force just over the border in Italian Somaliland. As war between Italy and Ethiopia looms, the Italians ask Rhoda to betray her adopted home country and use her plane to spy for them. At the same time they have learned a dark secret about Teo’s Ethiopian father that may tear their family apart but may also give Teo the chance to save a culture from destruction as the country spirals into full-fledged war. The story alternates in perspective between Teo and Em through essays, flight log entries, snippets of their own made up stories about heroes of their own creation (also called Black Dove and White Raven), and even a letter to the emperor of Ethiopia. Elizabeth Wein tackles a time period and a war that are likely unknown to most teens and even adults and continues to do what she does best – write historical fiction in which the characters are deeply involved and affected by the history being made and the wars being fought around them. And of course, there are airplanes.
For me, Elizabeth Wein will have a hard time ever topping Code Name Verity, and Black Dove White Raven doesn’t even come close. However, much like the flights that her characters take, both books have unexpected twists that keep me coming back every time she writes another book.