Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu combines music with magic as it follows Nannerl Mozart, the sister of the more commonly known Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this one, but I found myself touched by Nannerl’s longing to be remembered in a society that forbids women from composing. Nannerl herself is well-developed, and the book contains powerful feminist messages. This is a thought-provoking read that shows a new side of Marie Lu.

Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie LuTitle: The Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu
Also by this author: The Young Elites (The Young Elites #1)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Rating: four-stars

Summary (from Goodreads):

Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish: to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in eighteenth-century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

As Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

In her first work of historical fiction, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister.

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Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

This book does not lend itself easily to synopsis, but at its core, it is a historical fantasy about the life of Nanner Mozartl. Both Nannerl and her brother are talented pianists and composers who are touring Europe, but as a woman, Nannerl does not have the same opportunities as Wolfgang. Desperate to be remembered, she makes a deal with a mysterious prince from a strange land that appears in her dreams, in hopes of gaining immortality. In return, Nannerl must help him reclaim his throne. At first, she is eager to complete the prince’s tasks, but as she slowly comes to realize that not everything is as it seems, she must decide how far she is willing to go to be remembered.

❀ A Character-Driven Story

The Kingdom of Back is definitely a character-driven story, and I adored the depth to Nannerl’s character. Her fears of being forgotten hit me hard, and she struggles to be seen as an equal to her younger brother in a society that forbids her from taking credit for her own compositions. I loved the way her bond with Wolfgang is written, and there is an interesting balance between her efforts to be recognized and the lengths she goes to in order to help her brother succeed as well. Nannerl never intends for her brother to fail, only for herself to receive equal opportunities, and I appreciated these aspects of the story and the feminist messages.

❀ Asks Readers to Reflect

While this book is a historical fantasy, the more fantastical elements never obscure the reality of Nannerl’s experiences, which I admired. Marie Lu does an excellent job describing the conditions of 18th century Europe, and it is clear that a lot of research and care has gone into Nannerl’s story. It is sad to say that I had never heard of Nannerl before reading this book, and it feels as though Lu expects this, tying it in with Nannerl’s fear of being forgotten. This reveals a thought-provoking message: what might Nannerl have been able to contribute had she been a man? What other contributions from women have been lost simply because they have not had the same opportunities as men? This is a story that truly asks its readers to reflect on its contents.

❀ A Blend of Reality and Fantasy

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu is an atmospheric historical fantasy with a feminist message. I enjoyed the blend of both reality and fantasy, and the main character is well-developed. What I especially appreciated about this book is the care with which Nannerl’s story is told, and as Marie Lu introduces Nannerl and her talents to new audiences, I would absolutely recommend this one to anyone with an interest in music.

About Marie Lu

Image of Marie LU

I write young adult novels, and have a special love for dystopian books. Ironically, I was born in 1984. Before becoming a full-time writer, I was an Art Director at a video game company. Now I shuffle around at home and talk to myself a lot. 🙂

I graduated from the University of Southern California in '06 and currently live in LA, where I spend my time stuck on the freeways.

17 thoughts on “Review: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

    • The Candid Cover says:

      This one has a very similar writing style to Marie Lu’s other books, but it is definitely not a dystopian, like she typically writes. It’s more of a historical fiction with some fantasy elements, so I would say that if your daughter enjoys historical fiction, this would be a great choice! 🙂

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