The hardest thing for me in connection with the #ShelfLove Challenge is not to buy a book when I’m stressed. I broke in early June. Work was getting me down, none of the free audiobooks from SYNC had grabbed my attention and I needed something to brighten my day one morning as I dreaded going into work. Recalling that Black Dove, White Raven had released, I went ahead and purchased it.
This novel fits snuggly in an area of history I don’t know much about it. Set mainly in Ethiopia in the years leading up to World War II, the lack of known historical context on my part, the narrators and the story itself, left me struggling to connect with Black Dove, White Raven the way I connected with Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire.
The history. The history of Ethiopia is fascinating. A nation that just recently abolished slavery was running on its own calendar (which was several years behind our own) took pride in the fact it was the only African nation to never be colonized. Religion runs deep in the hills—literally and figuratively. This is a history not explored in American classrooms. I don’t recall any of my history classes talking much about the African front in the years leading up to WII or the role those battles played in the war as a whole. Needless to say, I learned a lot and I spent some time staring at Google maps trying to track Emilia’s and Teo’s movements across the desert.
While the history was fascinating and I was thankful Wein shined a light on Ethiopia, it wasn’t completely engaging. I didn’t venture beyond Google maps to Wikipedia, say, to learn more. I stayed within the confines of the book just waiting to finish.
The narrators. I listened to Code Name Verity. I listened to Rose Under Fire. I tried to read Black Dove, White Raven and failed. (Yes, did try to avoid buying the book! I checked it out from the library and returned it quickly.) I was hoping for a hat trick in audiobooks when my will broke and I bought Black Dove, White Raven.
Wein uses letters, diary entries and flight logs to convey Emilia and Teo’s story. The story is told from first person point of view which in her previous two books packed a lot of emotional punch. The narration of Black Dove, White Raven lacked emotion. It was as if the narrators did not identify with the characters and their struggles. They seemed above the characters. Because of this, I found it difficult to connect with Emilia and Teo.
The story. I love Wein’s use of letters, diary entries and flight logs to share Emilia and Teo’s story. I was confused most by the insertion of “The Adventures of Black Dove and White Raven,” a series of tales co-written by the characters. I believe these adventures were meant to parallel the actual adventures of Emilia and Teo. However, they seemed oddly placed within the main narrative and I failed every time to see how they related to the narrative at large. If I had been reading the book, I probably would have skipped over these sections.
The summary. Is Black Dove, White Raven a total thumbs down? Not exactly. I finished the book. My knowledge of world history has been filled in a bit. That’s a plus.
It does get a mostly thumbs down though. I can’t get past my lack of connection with Teo and Emilia. Perhaps I was expecting too much after two emotional fire bombs from Wein’s previous works. While I want to make sure I get Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire into my physical book collection, I won’t be rushing to add Black Dove, White Raven.