Read for the YA Historical Fiction Challenge
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.
My review and thoughts
I was really excited that I got this book for Christmas because I had been waiting to read it so long so it was the first one I started after Christmas.
In 1583, young fourteen year old Cate is left a penniless orphan when her father is killed in service to the Queen whilst fighting in the Netherlands. Sent to live with her Aunt and Uncle (and her intolerable cousins), she is not welcomed into their household happily as she is an extra burden in already tight financial status. Soon after, her fortunes change for the better when Cate receives a letter from Queen Elizabeth herself inviting her to become one of her ladies in waiting at court. However, despite her glittering new life, Cate soon learns that life at court isn't as simple as it seems and she doesn't know who she can trust. Her independent nature makes it hard for her to put the will of the Queen before her own, even though it might mean risking her favour at court. She learns this all too well when her secret romance behind the scenes with Sir Walter Ralegh is uncovered and she is banished to the New World by the Queen as a punishment. I absolutely love reading about Queen Elizabeth's court so Cate serving there was the perfect setting for me and I like seeing how different authors depict what the Queen was like. Klein's vivid descriptions through the eyes of Cate really brought the court to life and I learnt lots of new things about life there.
The new Roanoke Island colony that she is destined for turns out to be nothing like Cate expected it to be: she dreamed of riches, jewels and exotic plants, instead she and the rest of the colonists are forced to endure much hardship. This is a distinct difference from the extravagant life at court she has experienced for three years, which she is unsure if she will ever know again. Trying to forget the past, she try to help the colony succeed amidst troubles with the natives, sicknesses and hunger.
Cate was a very interesting and complex character who grew and changed a lot throughout the book so that she was a different girl at the end. The development was at a good pace and related to what happened to her, which made it more plausible. She doesn't completely fit in with the other maids of honour at court and is very independent as she likes to make her own choices and stand up for what she believes in. However, she isn't rash or hot headed like characters in other books with similar traits. Her courage in what she goes through in Roanoke is very admirable and I liked how she rose to challenges such as learning the language of the native Indians. All this is done with a heart of gold and I am happy with her ending with the book. The chapters told from her point of view were my favourite as her voice really shined through.
The way Sir Walter Ralegh is portrayed makes him an unlikeable character and it was easy to see that his 'love' for Cate was not genuine. His side of the story was told through letters and documents of his, which although told what was happening back in England were a little dull and made me want to skim through them so I could find out what happened next to Cate and Manteo.
It was hard to get a true picture of his feelings but I still found that it was fascinating to find out more about the famous historical figure.
Manteo, the Indian who came over to London before returning home was really gentle and sweet. I really enjoyed reading about his perception of the British and the choices he has to make about his alliance with them. He always did the best to keep the peace without betraying anyone and I found him very wise yet unpredictable, which was intriguing. I would have loved to see more chapters from his point of view!
The fate of the colonists is a mystery so Lisa M Klein was left to her own imagination but for me, the ending of the book was very believable as to what happened to the Roanoke colonists and I was left very satisfied with the way things were wrapped up. Lisa M Klein clearly did extensive research on the Roanoke Colony and it really paid off for the details included made it very realistic. I liked how she used the original colonist's names and they were listed at the front of the book along with fictional characters so I could tell the difference. Historical fact and fiction was also distinguished between in the author's note at the back and a more detailed historical outline is given.
Lisa M Klein has written an imaginative story about a young girl banished to the colony of Roanoke filled with love, adventure and hardships. At times, it was a little slow moving but I loved finding out more about Roanoke and the mystery surrounding it and I think that both teenagers and adults will too whether they are a historical fiction fan or newbie.If you are participating in the YA Historical Fiction Challenge then this would be a brilliant choice. I have been meaning to read Klein's other books for about a year or more and now I hope I finally will!