Friday, January 21, 2011

Book Review: Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein

Cate of the Lost Colony by Lisa Klein
Release Date: August 24, 2010
Publisher: Bloomsbury

Received: Library
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars 

Author's Page
Amazon Page 

Goodreads Page

Looking for something to read for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge? This would be a great pick!


While serving as a lady’s maid to Queen Elizabeth, Catherine Archer catches the eye of Sir Walter Raleigh and they engage in a secret affair behind Elizabeth’s back. As Catherine and Sir Walter exchange love letters, Raleigh mercilessly flirts with the Queen in order to gain favor and funding for his forays into colonization of the New World. When the Queen discovers their relationship, she jealously banishes Cate to America. As a member of the floundering colony of Roanoke, Cate struggles to eke out a life in the unknown land peopled with natives who are both friend and foe.


I often speak of books that I refer to as “historical fiction lite” where the location and time period happen to be in the past, but everything else about the story feels fairly modern. These books are good for people who don’t necessarily like historical fiction, but may still enjoy the story. Cate of the Lost Colony is definitely not “lite” historical fiction. Instead, this is a story that is positively saturated in the time period and will appeal to adult readers as well as YA readers.

One of the things I enjoy most about historical fiction is that it can teach me about interesting events in a way that is exciting to read about and makes me feel like I am there. CotLC does this very well. I talked my fiance’s ear off rambling on about all of the little historical facts I was learning. There were so many things I knew only surface details about and this book really expanded my understanding. I felt like I was there with Cate, not only in location (which was richly described), but also in how it must have felt to live during that time and in those situations.

The story is told with three narrators: Cate’s first person perspective, Sir Walter’s journal and letters, and Manteo’s sporadic first person accounts (he is a Native American who journeys to England and later helps Cate and the Roanoke colonists in America). This narration style worked nicely and helped to create a full picture of the time period by using the perspectives of three very different people.

Manteo’s accounts were interesting and it is clear he is an honorable man. Sir Walter, on the other hand, was a truly detestable man whose letters and journals reveal a selfish man whose thoughtlessness affected everyone around him. I gritted my teeth throughout his entire courtship with Cate, wishing she would realize how horrible he was and cheering when she was finally sent to America. 

Cate’s sections were my favorite to read, even though I didn’t like her overly much in the beginning. She starts out as a na├»ve girl who is too meek and easily impressed with Sir Walter. I didn’t think too highly of her, even though she did seem to be a nice girl at least. There was a tiny spark of backbone in her, though, and this spark grew considerably throughout the book. Cate transforms into an admirable young woman, and not only is her transformation enjoyable to read, but it is also very believable. The reader can really see how her age and circumstances affected how she was in the beginning and why she grew and matured in the direction she did. By the end of the book I was so pleased with her.

The pacing of the book is good, but the first section in England did feel a little slow to me. This may also be because I loathed Sir Walter so much and this was the part where he and Cate were together. Still, it was interesting to see the inner dramas of court life and read about a less polished (though historically accurate) side of Queen Elizabeth.

Once the story shifted to America I felt it really picked up. You can tell the author loves the subject she is writing about and her passion and excitement increased my own. Those who are familiar with the story of Roanoke colony know its fate is a mystery to this day, and I was holding my breath the entire time wondering how Klein would explain the colonists’ disappearance. The ending she chose is completely believable and fully satisfying (plus, the romance had me cheering).

This book was a slow build for me. At first I enjoyed it, but I wasn’t into it. The more I read, the more I found myself immersed into the world and connecting with Cate. By the end my heart was captured and I was searching the internet to see what else Klein has written. For fans of historical fiction, this one is a must read. 
 Explanation of rating system: Star Rating Key 

Looking for more historical fiction? You might like: 
Assassin: A Lady Grace Mystery
The Twin's Daughter by Lauren Baratz-Logsted


  1. If you say this is a must read, I'll definitely bump it up a couple of spots in my TBR list. Will definitely see if my library has a copy!

  2. This one sounds like a really good historical fiction read (a genre I'm kind of picky about). Plus, I like that Cate grows throughout the book so I'll have to check it out. Great review!

  3. This one sounds great, I've added it to my must read list. Thanks for the review!

  4. I've not really fancied this book at all, but I really enjoyed reading your review. I think my mind might be changing. I'm heading over to Goodreads to put it on my wishlist :)

  5. I really want to read this book! I don't think I've read about colonies (except for Witch Child by Celia Rees), but I'm intrigued now.

    Awesome review.

  6. Cialina, That’s a lot of confidence in me! :P I hope you enjoy it.

    A Canadian Girl, I liked it because it seemed particularly historical-focused, if you know what I mean. She grows a lot, but it’s a gradual growing not a sudden epiphany, which I liked a lot.

    The Slowest Bookworm, I hope you enjoy it if you read it. It’s very much historical fiction.

    Dazzling Mage, I hope you like it! It’s pretty much 50-50 Elizabethan/Colony. I wasn’t expecting it to have as much about court life as it had.

  7. Ok, I am soooo most definitely reading this book!!!! After I get through Two Girls of Gettysburg, of course...haha! I've seen it before and thought it looked good, but it looks even more amazing now that I've read your review. Thanks so much! :)

  8. I hope you enjoy it! I can't wait to read Two Girls of Gettysburg. I really liked her writing style, plus it seems she's really into writing about American historical fiction (which would be nice for Gettysburg).

  9. Woah, okay lots to catch up with! Sorry I haven't commented in a while.

    After reading this, you've got me wondering whether I prefer historical fiction lite or not. I can't decide if it would be more enjoyable to read something that is light on the historical fiction or if I would be annoyed by the lack of details... I ought to read more in this genre to find out.

  10. It's ok :) For me, it really depends on my mood. Sometimes I want to go back in time, but I don't want to actually learn stuff. Other times I'm hoping to learn something about the time period.

  11. Sounds great! I've been in the mood for some good historical fiction, so this looks like just the book for me!

  12. I missed this when you first posted it! You know my thoughts from my review but I agree with everything you've said. I've learns so many little things from historical fiction, it's so much more fun than learning it from a history textbook! I want to read Two Girls of Gettysburg too :)

  13. Jessi, If you're in the mood then definitely check this one out!

    Stephanie, Oh yeah, much more fun than a textbook!


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