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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Review: Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein


Reading level:
Young Adult
336 pages
Bloomsbury USA Children's Books (October 12, 2010)
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

Lady Catherine is one of Queen Elizabeth's favorite court maidens—until her forbidden romance with Sir Walter Ralegh is discovered. In a bitter twist of irony, the jealous queen banishes Cate to Ralegh's colony of Roanoke, in the New World. Ralegh pledges to come for Cate, but as the months stretch out, Cate begins to doubt his promise and his love. Instead it is Manteo, a Croatoan Indian, whom the colonists—and Cate—increasingly turn to. Yet just as Cate's longings for England and Ralegh fade and she discovers a new love in Manteo, Ralegh will finally set sail for the New World.

Seamlessly weaving together fact with fiction, Lisa Klein's newest historical drama is an engrossing tale of adventure and forbidden love—kindled by one of the most famous mysteries in American history: the fate of the settlers at Roanoke, who disappeared without a trace forty years before the Pilgrims would set foot in Plymouth.

Book Opening: 

"At a young age I learned how quickly one's fortunes can change, a truth that never betrayed me."

Notable Scene:

Her forehead and cheeks were bright red with anger. "You were also nothing until I favored you. But I see you have entirely forgotten that."

"No I have not forgotten," I said forlornly.  I could see my good fortune, accrued through years of service, sinking like a wrecked ship. What was left for me to cling to but my pride? So I looked my queen in the eye and said, "But I would gladly be nothing again, and thus be free to choose my own love." -Page 112

What really happened to the colonists at Roanoke?

It is one of the most enduring unsolved mysteries in American history. The "Lost Colony" of 90 men, 17 women and 9 children was founded in 1587 and discovered to be missing in 1590. The colonists set out from England seeking fortune and a better life. But the New World turned out to be a place where food was scarce, nature unpredictable and the natives not always so friendly. The colonists left one clue to their disappearance—the word "Croatan" carved onto a post.  Though both the Spanish and English searched for many years, the mystery of Roanoke has never been solved. CATE OF THE LOST COLONY weaves together historical fact and fiction as Lisa Klein imagines her own exciting and highly plausible take on what happened in the New World. The book alternates between the point of view of three protagonists—Catherine "Cate" Archer, the Queen's handmaid, Manteo, a Croatoan warrior and Sir Walter Ralegh himself.

Though I always found Cate to be strong and extremely intelligent, she definitely made some frustratingly poor choices in regards to her romance with Ralegh.  But then again, haven't we all erred in judgment at some time or other? What impressed me was the way she held her head up high and remained so strong, especially after falling dangerously out of favor with the Queen. But it wasn't until Cate arrived in the New World that her character really began to blossom and come into her own. The Cate at the end of the book was not the same girl from the beginning. I did often wonder whether Cate was portrayed a bit too mature for someone so young though. But regardless of that, I adored her character.  The way she stood up for what was right and began to lead the colonists was incredibly moving. Take this passage for instance—

"This New World is nothing like what we expected. We cannot control the misfortunes that have occurred here," I began. "Perhaps it is time for us to abandon our belief that we are superior in every regard that we were meant to rule and not to submit." My eyes were glistening with tears, and I could see nothing clearly, but the truth that I was trying to express "It may be the that nothing is more fitting than for us, newcomers in this land, to live in common with its native inhabitants." By fellowship we may end the strife between us, so that all may prosper, and none seek to destroy another. One day we may even restore the Eden that we sought in coming here." Page 271

On the other hand, Sir Walter Ralegh was a man hardly worthy of someone like Cate. Ralegh's sole purpose in life seemed to revolve around either gaining Queen Elizabeth's favor or whining about her all the time.  The manner in which he postured and preened around the Queen made it hard to root for his character in any way. At times he reminded me of Mr. Collins from Pride & Prejudice. I think it would've been more ideal for the book to alternate between Cate and Manteo only.  I do understand that Ralegh's letters and poems help provide insight into what was going on back in England. But every time Ralegh took center stage, I felt like I was being yanked out of the action and I couldn't wait to return back to Cate and Manteo.  

Speaking of Manteo, I was riveted.  I only wish he had been in more scenes.  I enjoyed getting Manteo's perspective on the British and his perception of the events that transpired after their arrival in the New World. When they brought him back to England, I was fascinated by how he tried to assimilate into such a completely different culture.  The way he tried to keep the peace between different hostile factions of people was suspenseful and intriguing. Bottom line-- Manteo was definitely a man worthy of Cate.  Almost immediately I wanted the two of them to fall for one another.

No one really knows what happened at Roanoke, but Lisa Klein has written a beautiful story, told with complex, well-drawn characters, romantic tension and the constant allure of the dangerous unknown.   The ending of CATE OF THE LOST COLONY was simple and beautiful. Even now, days after reading it, it still gives me goose bumps to reflect back upon.

I look forward to reading more of Lisa Klein's books in the future.

NOTE: History buffs will be happy to know that Klein's included a list of characters of historical significance at the front of the book. At the end there is an enjoyable Author's Note which chronicles Klein's research on the mysteries of Roanoke. Visit the author's website for more information on Roanoke and some great pictures if you are interested in learning more.

LISA KLEIN is the author of Lady Macbeth's Daughter, Two Girls of Gettysburg, and Ophelia. A former professor of English, she lives in Ohio with her family.
To learn more about Lisa Klein and her books visit her Official Website 


Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Great review!
I look forward to trying it :)

Christina/Book Addict said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, because I've read mixed reviews. I love historical fiction so I've had my eye on this one. I can't wait to read it now! Great review!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What happened at Roanoke has always intrigued me. Nice review. I'm adding this to my TBR list. The other books too.

justpeachy36 said...

This one is really interesting to me. I've always loved the stories about the Lost Colony...

Great review!

Dwayne said...

It's not my usual type of historical fiction, but I seriously must move on from my no-brainer faves to something more worthwhile. Great review!

Anonymous said...

I am very interested reading this mystery of what beame of the lost colony.


linaramz said...

I'd like to try this one. It sounds so interesting!