The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu (Book Review)

Rating: ★★★★ .5

“I am going to tell you a story you already know. But listen carefully, because within it is one you have never heard before.”

– Marie Lu, The Kingdom of Back

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy

Summary: “Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart. 

“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 18th 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.

“And 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.” –Goodreads

My Review

This was probably one of the most mystical yet enlightening books I have ever read. The Kingdom of Back follows Nannerl as she grows up in an intensely patriarchal society, a society that doesn’t allow her to follow her dreams of becoming a composer. Her desperation and sheer force of will are astonishing as she forges a world from her dreams in order to be remembered in her own. I find it so interesting that in a world and history where women are often forgotten and tossed aside, Nannerl Mozart wants more than anything to be remembered. It’s a wish I can relate to and although I am not a musical prodigy, there is something about her story that is just so universal and relatable that I cannot help being drawn to it.

Marie Lu’s writing style turns the Kingdom that Nannerl creates into something sensory and all-encompassing. Her writing adds a layer of mystery and curiosity to the Kingdom’s lyrical world. When Nannerl heard music in the distance, it was almost like I could hear music in the distance. Furthermore, I enjoyed how the Kingdom seemed to grow up with Nannerl. I won’t give any particular spoilers, but I felt that as she got more cynical and grounded, so did the Kingdom of Back.

A large part of the book that I loved to dissect was the Mozart family dynamic. It always seemed that the father always had a tighter hold on the family, pushing his children to their very limits in order to get money for his family and acclaim for himself. Meanwhile, I could tell that the mother cared so much for her children and her family. Still, it was reflective of their society that even though she clearly had much to say, she usually kept quiet. Finally, I thought Nannerl’s relationship with Wolfgang (the famous Mozart and her younger brother) was fascinating because although Nannerl loved her brother dearly, her opinion of Wolfgang shifted with his fame throughout the book, creating another layer of conflict.

It was also interesting to me that from a very young age, Nannerl knows what awaits for her in her society. In fact, she dreads it. Even at the beginning of the novel, Nannerl doesn’t look men in the eye. She is demure and polite and silent because that is what 18th century Europe taught women to be. However, internally, I could see the turmoil coursing through Nannerl’s head as her passions and skill conflict with the ever-tightening hold her society has over her.

Although the story was a bit slow at times, I thought that Marie Lu skillfully wove history and fantasy together into one cohesive tale that told the story of a young girl trapped in the growing shadow of her younger brother. Nannerl Mozart created a new world because she wanted desperately to be seen. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy classical music, history, mysterious faerie boys, and girls who don’t give up in the face of adversity. 

Where to Buy

Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Your Local (Online) Bookseller

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