Book Reviews

Review: “Cate of the Lost Colony,” Lisa Klein

August 27, 2013
Review: “Cate of the Lost Colony,” Lisa KleinCate of the Lost Colonyby Lisa Klein
Series: Standalone
Published by Bloomsbury on October, 2010
Genres: Historical, Real Events
Pages: 336

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.

This is my first novel by Lisa Klein and I am thoroughly impressed with what I found inside the pages. The Roanoke mystery has always been something that has fascinated me and Cate of the Lost Colony offers us a very well-researched glimpse inside the lives of the men and women involved with the settlement. I daresay I will find it hard to distinguish fact from fiction after reading this book!

Lisa Klein has definitely done her research when it comes to the writing of Cate and the Lost Colony. From the glittering life at the Royal court during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I to the bleak and desolate camp at Roanoke Island, I felt as if I was watching history unfold as I turned the pages. Lisa Klein has paid great attention to detail with whatever information she could find regarding the lost colony.

Our leading lady, Catherine (Cate) Archer, is fictional, but you could be forgiven for believing in her after the end of the book. Cate was such a strong central character and it was a joy watching the story unfold from inside her head. In England, though young and quite silly at times, her fire is still evident within her and it only grows as she transforms into a young woman once setting sail for the New World. I felt that she always did what she believed to be right, standing up to men in a time when it was unheard of.

Walter Ralegh’s character was an interesting one. His journal entries give us a glimpse inside the man – how self-centered and greedy he was – but so charming, too. His relationship with Cate was the driving force behind the events that transpire in the novel, and though their physical interaction was minimal, I can understand why a young Cate would be swept up so easily into his web when he carried such an aura about him.

Life in the colony was fascinating and I found myself growing reasonably attached to some of the personalities there – Eleanor, baby Virginia, Alice and Jane. The woman had quite the camaraderie by the end of the novel, and I even found myself liking Mr Graham. On the flip side we had the troublemakers, such as Bailey, who continued to wreak havoc from within. Each body contributed something different to the colony, though this could surely account for it’s failure.

What stopped me from really adoring this book was the character of Manteo. I really wanted to like him – as I liked the other Indian characters – but he just seemed so boring and bland. I never really got a feel for him despite some chapters from his point of view. His relationship with Cate could have been built upon a lot more, especially once she was in Virginia. There were so many times I wanted them to connect on a level more than just a glance, but it never happened. By the end of the book I was wishing I’d seen something more solid between them.

One of the best things about the book was the ending and Cate’s choice. I really admired her courage and strength, and marvelled at her transformation. Things from early on in the book were brought back and set free (ie: the handkerchief) and I think it was symbolic and quite a lovely touch from Lisa Klein.

I always know I’ve enjoyed a historical novel when I go on to research more about the historical event in question – in the case the lost colony of Roanoke – and after reading Cate of the Lost Colony, I did just that. Lisa Klein offers us a believable explanation behind the mystery, and as I mentioned briefly, I’m going to have trouble distinguishing fact from fiction in the future.

Recommended to: I absolutely recommend this book if you’ve ever had any interest in the Roanoke lost colony. If you’ve never heard of it, please have a quick look on google – I’m sure you’ll be intrigued. That being said, even if unfamiliar with the mystery, fans of historical fiction will certainly enjoy this book.

About Lisa Klein

A writer of historical fiction for young adults, Lisa Klein is a native of Peoria, Illinois. She received her B.A. from Marquette and her Ph.D. in literature from Indiana University. Klein was an assistant professor of English at The Ohio State University for eight years, where her special discipline was Shakespeare and Renaissance culture. Klein lives in Columbus.

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