Review: The Shore of Sun's Afterglow

The Shore of Sun's Afterglow was an ARC I received from Madison McAuley, a relatively new author who promotes her books as historical fiction. I am far from a history buff, but I noticed that this book had very few details to set it in a specific place or time. It contained more of a general knowledge of royalty and kingdoms that could be derived from any fairy tale or Disney movie. Those details don't matter to me, personally, but I would want any historical fiction fans who pick up this book to be aware of that before reading it. It is more of a character-driven story focusing heavily on the lost princess trope and the universal human desire for love and family. The book is scheduled for release on July 7th, so there is still some time left before it will be available for purchase. It is the second book in a series called Fallen Stars, but it worked fine as a standalone.

Amira is an ordinary farm girl who is relatively happy with her life when her friend, Emily, takes her on a journey that changes everything she knows. When she is brought on a visit to a castle for a foreign relations mission, Amira learns that the king is actually her father and she was secretly a princess for her entire life. Instead of feeling hurt about being lied to like in many lost princess stories, Amira takes the news with excitement and enthusiasm. She can't wait to start her new life as a princess and get to know her father, a king who she nicknames Liam based on what her mother used to call him before she passed away. Liam is nervous about whether Amira will fit into her new role and does everything in his power to make sure she is comfortable and happy with her royal life, similar to King Louis XIV in the recent film The King's Daughter.

What sets this book aside from other "lost princess" stories is that it isn't set in a dark and grim world with an angsty protagonist who is reluctant to take on her new role. Amira's attitude reminds me of Rose Cinderella from Regal Academy, which is the only lost princess story I've seen where the protagonist feels no resentment at all toward not knowing she was a princess for years. There is some danger in this world, but it isn't introduced until near the end of the book nor is it built up to be a major threat to Amira's well-being. The book falls short in that respect because it wasn't a big enough threat that Amira needed to be removed from the castle entirely. Instead, it probably could have been resolved with a few extra guards. The book also doesn't address the recklessness of the queen for throwing away her own duties to raise Amira as a peasant and never telling her the truth about who she was.

As a fairytale-inspired story, this book touches lightly on the prospect of romance, but it was clear that the true love story was the one shared between father and daughter. Liam was insistent that Amira should only marry someone she loves and is happy with, so there was no danger of a forced marriage. The person she inevitably falls for seemed to be inspired by Hans from Frozen, which was pretty obvious from the moment she met him. In the end, Amira learns that what really matters is having a loving family and taking care of her people. However, that wasn't something she was struggling with in the beginning, so there isn't too much growth on her part aside from living a life that is very different from the one she knew before.

Overall, this book is a classic "lost princess" story without too many new elements to offer. It does not contain any magic nor does it contain historical details about real kingdoms from the past. It's a pleasant way to experience the fantasy of becoming a princess with an upbeat tone for people who aren't in the mood to read something dark or depressing. A similar book that I enjoyed was Palace of Mirrors by Margaret Peterson-Haddix, which was also about a girl who was secretly a princess living an ordinary life. In that book, she was raised in the royal ways in private so she would be ready to take on her role when she returned to the castle. This book focuses more on the joy of discovering you are royalty for the first time. If you enjoyed Palace of Mirrors, you might enjoy this book as well.


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