By Elizabeth Wein
Available now from Disney Hyperion
Read my Elizabeth Wein tag
Elizabeth Wein combines the WWII setting of CODE NAME VERITY and ROSE UNDER FIRE with the Ethiopian setting of her last four Lion Hunter novels in a book that is sure to please her fans new and old.
BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN beings with a letter from Emilia to the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie asking for him to grant her brother Teodoros a passport. What follows are the diary entries, flight logs, and stories they wrote together, the evidence Em sends to the emperor that Teo deserves his help leaving the country. This letter is the first of many indications that the idyllic way Em and Teo's story starts is sure not to last.
Em and Teo were raised together by Rhoda (Em's mother) and Delia, two barnstormers, until Delia's tragic death due to a bird strike. They emigrate to Ethiopia to escape the racism in the US, because it was where Teo's dad was from, and because Delia dreamed of all of them living there together. For the most part it is a happy life, although Momma refuses to teach them how to fly. But there are rumors of invasion, that the Italians are going to try to take over the only African country that was never colonized. Staying in the country becomes ever more dangerous for the half-Italian Em and her mother, and for Teo, who is just old enough to be conscripted.
BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN builds up the intensity slowly. About halfway through the novel there is an awful, life-changing reveal that kicks everything into a higher gear. I loved the slow dread of what was to come, the hints of war on the horizon and their mother's careless optimism putting the family in a dangerous situation. Throughout it all, there's the infallible relationship between Em and Teo, who never regard each other as anything less than siblings no matter how outsiders treat them.
I also liked how deeply Wein delves into the details of the setting. The first half portrays everyday life, the clothes, the flashy church, the minutiae of learning to fly. The second disrupts that. Throughout the novel, good and bad things are shown about both the Ethiopians and the Italians. For instance, the Ethiopians are still in the process of ending slavery and the Italians commit war crimes such as using mustard gas. I knew very little about the the setting of BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN before I started reading the novel, and I was horrified by many of the events that really happened. Wein provides a detailed author's note about the actual history and the liberties that she took for the story.
BLACK DOVE, WHITE RAVEN isn't as brutal of a reading experience as CODE NAME VERITY or ROSE UNDER FIRE, but it is still not for the faint of heart. It's a wonderful portrayal of how children get caught up in war through no fault of their own. It's also a wonderful portrayal of family and community and how humans seek out a place for themselves. I'm definitely still a fan.
Fellow Houstonites and Wein fans, be sure to go out to Houston Teen Book Con to see Wein this Saturday, 4/11!