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The Secret Token: Myth, Obsession, and the Search for the Lost Colony of Roanoke

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  80 Ratings  ·  30 Reviews
A sweeping account of a four-hundred-year-old mystery, the archeologists racing to unearth the answer, and what the Lost Colony reveals about America--from colonial days to today

In 1587, 115 men, women, and children arrived on Roanoke, an island off the coast of North Carolina. Chartered by Queen Elizabeth I, their colony was to establish a foothold for England in the New
Hardcover, 426 pages
Published June 5th 2018 by Doubleday
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Nancy Oakes
Jun 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
As much as I enjoyed this book, it needs a home. If you're in the US and you want it, it's yours and I'll pay postage. Just let me know.


I am fascinated by mystery stories, and they don't have to be fictional to capture my interest. This goes back to my childhood when I would read anything and everything, fiction and nonfiction alike. Fictional mysteries are the heart and soul of my reading life, but "real" mysteries are equally as fascinating-- I'm talkin
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
(Note: I received an advanced electronic copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley)

Due to my being born and raised a New Englander, my education on the "founding" of America focused quite heavily on Pilgrims and Puritans. The Roanoke Colony was nothing more than the briefest of mentions in textbooks about Sir Walter Raleigh, a few folks vanishing, and a strange place name carved onto a tree. So to put it bluntly, until now I had absolutely no idea - no idea about the history of the short-lived col
Susan (the other Susan)
Fascinating product of determined journalism. The so-called "Lost Colony" is a romantic legend that enabled white supremacists - as early as the mid-1800s - to deny the likelihood that survivors among the abandoned Roanoke colonists intermingled with Native Americans and later with Africans who took refuge among the coastal tribes. They weren't lost; they just chose to survive in a way that was ideologically unacceptable.
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you like true mysteries, conspiracy theories, or adventures, this book will hit your buttons. It's a real page turner, and it's well enough researched and thought out to give some interesting and thought provoking insights into American attitudes concerning racial integration, mixing & melding, and how they have changed over the centuries. I'll recommend this book to many friends.
Casey Wheeler
I received a free Kindle copy of The Secret Token by Andrew Lawler courtesy of Net Galley  and Doubleday Books, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.

I requested this book as all I really know about the lost colony of Roanoke is antidotal and I have never read anything about the details. This is the first bo
Casey Wheeler
Jun 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a free Kindle copy of The Secret Token by Andrew Lawler courtesy of Net Galley  and Doubleday Books, the publisher. It was with the understanding that I would post a review on Net Galley, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble and my fiction book review blog. I also posted it to my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus pages.

I requested this book as all I really know about the lost colony of Roanoke is antidotal and I have never read anything about the details. This is the first bo
Buck Edwards
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 'The Secret Token', Andrew Lawler takes us on the scenic route--no short cuts, just every dead end in the search for concrete evidence, but oh, what a ride. Four centuries of characters appearing and reappearing, with theories, hunches, and swamps of trinkets left as a trail. But a trail to what? To Lawler's five possibilities.
More, it is the refreshing realization, that after science has been exhausted, our imaginative hunches are not far off target. Virginia Dare may or may not have lived a
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Lost Colony of Roanoke has always fascinated me. It’s amazing how a group of people could just vanish off the face of the earth. Obviously there are theories about what actually happened to them, they were either killed or assimilated with the local Indians (in recent years there have even been speculation that they were abducted by aliens). However there is no real evidence to prove any of these things. The colony has become a slightly bizarre historical footnote. John White, the leader of ...more
Jun 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When I first saw this book, I thought..."Oh. Another Roanoke book." To my surprise and delight, this is anything but 'just another Roanoke book.'

The incredible amount of research and detail that went into this book is obvious from the moment you begin reading it. Rather than just diving straight into the mystery of the missing colony as so many authors have done before, this author carefully examines what happened, how it all started and explains for the reader the how and why that generally ge
Patrick Pope
Jul 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Excellent discussion of the search for the Lost Colony from 1500’s to present with a discussion of how our ideas have changed, concluding with a logical explanation. A short article by the author based on the book was in National Geographic Magazine June 2018.
Amanda Roa
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A historical page turner.

Looking back at the complex story of The Lost Colony was riveting. I was only vaguely aware of the story until this book. Well written, well researched and thoroughly reviewed from all angles, I would recommend this account of early American history to anyone interested in how those early days shaped our American society. The chapter on Virginia Dare and how various groups have romanticized her and used her as an iconic symbol to represent their particular views was esp
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly well written and researched. I definitely recommend this for anyone who has even a passing interest in Roanoke.
Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a galley of this book.

This sweeping narrative history looks at the leadup to the Roanoke Colony and Raleigh's rise in England, to the establishment of the colony, to the search by Gov John White after he returned to England, right up to the different theories and searches and theories into the 21st century.

Lawler covers a lot of time, though he explains that after the original search and the establishment of Jamestown, not much was happened in the sea
Jul 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous! The author takes you on his search in an attempt to untangle the mystery of what happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. He looks at the history of the Colony, theories of other historians, hoaxes, and experts on related subjects. Excellent and occasionally humorous writing. Loved it!!
May 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was a well written and comprehensive history of the Roanoke colony and the search for it. It provides extensive background information on colonialism and the search.
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
I admit to knowing nothing about the subject matter before I read this, but then sometimes that's the best way. THE SECRET TOKEN is a non-fiction documentation of the 'Lost Colony' legend of Roanoke; namely a group of Elizabethan settlers who vanished from Roanoke island in the three-year period it took British explorers to return to the area. The book is very much set up as providing answers to this enduring mystery, but I found it disappointingly vague and superficial.

The first half of the boo
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
I received a digital ARC of this book from Doubleday on NetGalley. I’m grateful to Doubleday for their generosity and am happy to post this honest review. All opinions are my own.

In 1587, 115 British citizens come to colonize America disappeared from Roanoke Island, leaving behind almost no traces, except for the word “Croatoan” carved into a tree. In the four hundred-plus years since, little has been discovered to explain where these men, women, and children went. To date it remains one
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: history, 2018
I finally finished this book last night.

It was terrible. Which obviously needs explanation.

As someone who studied early (EARLY) American colonialism as a sort of sub-focus for my history degree, and took a course specifically about Roanoke and Jamestown, I was so excited to see this cross my desk at work. I added it to my to-read list immediately and put it on hold at the library, where it was still in processing. I was the first person to get it, and devoured the first of three sections the b
RJ McGill
Jun 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have had what I will call a passing interest in the story of "The Lost Colony." Since writing a book report about it in 7th grade, if I happened across a book, sometimes I read it, sometimes I didn't. I'm glad I did not pass over this one. You will be too.

The disappearance of the first 115 men, women, and children attempting to form a colony in the new world has never been definitively explained. With a single word, Croatoan, carved into a tree, the colonists carved themselves not only a place
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Andrew Lawler manages to take a subject I had a passing interest in and drag me into the world of mystery and obsession that is the hunt for the Lost Colonists. The book is laid out well, beginning with a thorough primer on colonization and what we know about Roanoke, then going to the various search attempts (including his own) and concluding with musings on why we even care about solving this puzzle.

What stuck out to me was Lawler's choice to describe various archaeologists, geologists, histor
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: edelweiss
Like the author, I grew up vacationing every summer in the Outer Banks and every summer my family attended the outdoor performance of the Lost Colony play.  This may be why I was so invested and fascinated by this book.  Beginning with the actual history of the settlers, courtiers, and monarchs involved it then delves into the incredible history since their disappearance which includes some incredibly quirky individuals who became obsessed with the mystery.  The author, with caveats, takes a sta ...more
Michael Ritchie
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
(3-1/2 stars) I knew nothing about the mysteries surrounding the colony of Roanoke (100 settlers seem to have vanished leaving no trace behind except for a signal indicating they might have sought refuge on Croatoan Island) until I read this book. The first third of the book (The Planting) in which the author lays out what we know about the origins of the colony and how it was established is quite informative, with some good biographical background of people like Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh, a ...more
Jun 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
The Secret Token by Andrew Lawler is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early June.

Ooh, Roanoke - this topic/mystery really appealed to me during U.S. history class to the extent that it seemed like a dark shadow or Bermuda Triangle over colonial America. However, the actual history of Roanoke Island, the exploration by the Dutch/Spanish/English/Italians, and relations between the colonists and the Algonquian/Lumbee/Croatan is only told until the 25-30% mark - from then on, it's speculative t
Jun 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable, readable, and reliable. Lawler does a review of the facts that anyone who has read about the Lost Colony knows, but then he goes on to examine them in terms of politics and global trade, greed and self-interest of the parties, and other human factors. He examines the research, including debunked myths and legends and the reasons they arose in the first place. Finally, he applies Occam’s razor and through it, propounds his theory. A wonderful read.
Gerard Villegas
Jun 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
Damn, I was hoping for Lady Gaga to go all Scathach up in this bitch! But instead I got the real history and hypothesis of the Lost Colony of Roanoke instead. Oh well, I'm still hoping for Virginia Dare to have a Bad Romance.
Jul 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I felt like I was accompanying Andrew Lawler on this amazing investigation. The clues, the characters, and history were all so tantalizing!
Jun 09, 2018 rated it liked it
interesting. 3.5
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Very interesting more information than I could ever ask for.
Scott MacDonald
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Interesting documentary of search for what happened to the Lost Colony of Roanoke. Was a bit long and slow in spots but of interest to anyone who enjoys colonial American history.
rated it did not like it
Jun 13, 2018
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Andrew Lawler is a contributing writer with Science and contributing editor for Archaeology with more than thirty years full-time experience as a journalist and author. His stories have also appeared in Smithsonian, National Geographic, Discover, Audubon, American Archaeology, Columbia Journalism Review, Slate, Orion, The Sun, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, as well as several foreign ...more
More about Andrew Lawler

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