Title: The Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu
Release Date: March 3rd 2020
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Goodreads Rating: 4.00 (of 400 ratings)
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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu comes a historical YA fantasy about a musical prodigy and the dangerous lengths she’ll go to make history remember her—perfect for fans of Susanna Clarke and The Hazel Wood.
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.
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.
Disclaimer: I received this ARC courtesy of Penguin Teen through a contest on BookishFirst. I am grateful for the opportunity to review an ARC for my readers, but this will not influence my final rating. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and based solely on the book.
I don’t know how to describe this book besides ethereal. This story is a lush, lyrical story filled with incredible prose and a setting/atmosphere that cannot be said is anything less than magical. It’s a story that is the epitome of why we pick up stories: to get lost in a world that is filled with magic and possibility, and this is it.
I’ve read a few of Lu’s books before, and this is certainly quite different than those – however, not in a bad way. If you’re a fan of her books like, Legend or Warcross, this is definitely a deviation from those stories. However, Lu’s fantastic writing skills do transcend more than one genre, and she does an incredible job with this blend of historical fiction and fantasy. Her prose transports you into a land of creativity and wonder, but also in the time period that was the Mozarts’. I felt truly immersed in this story, and I now feel like I have to write this review as fancy as I can to do this book justice.
The plot is exciting and captivating. You are dealing with the Mozarts’ struggles and triumphs, Nannerl’s own mental and emotional journeys, and the realm of Kingdom of Back and the power and danger that comes with it. Sometimes, it did get a little slower, but the threat of action and mystery was always looming that kept you pushing through. There were twists and turns – some expected and not – but they were good, nonetheless. The emotional and mental aspects were as captivating as the action-packed scenes as well.
The characterization was incredibly well done – especially with Nannerl. Dear gosh, Lu did wonders with her character. She was so well thought out, and so wonderfully realistic. She’s a messy character – she makes terrible decisions and is selfish at times – but it’s real. Many of us might have the same exact thoughts that she would have in the situation, and I applaud Lu for giving us a complex heroine instead of just a rosy-colored tin to her. She fights so hard to be heard, and she was just a heroine that you are so drawn in by.
The other side characters were quite dynamic and detailed as well. Wolferl, Hyacinth, and the rest of the family are given great care to their personalities, mannerisms, and more. The entire ensemble was fantastic.
The elements of feminism throughout the story was amazing. This is easiest one if not the most feminist book I’ve ever read. This story details all of the struggles, the patriarchy, the fight to be heard/remembered, and more. Our heroine is filled with strength in so many ways, and the journey of self-discovery and more was incredible. There are just so many elements, and it was so wonderful (although heartbreaking – definitely very heartbreaking with the way women were treated and are still treated, but seriously this book had you angry, hopeful, and more).
There were a few things that kept me from thinking it was perfect. I felt like there was just something that kept me from loving it? Maybe a super strong connection with all of the characters? And I wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. I felt like the epilogue was kind of eh, and it just felt like it was chopped at the end. I also saw some things coming, and I wanted a touch more a plot twist at the end or something? They were pretty minor things, but it did keep it from becoming a favorite.
Overall, this was an incredible read, and just the perfect way to start Women’s Month! Definitely make sure to pick this one up.
content warnings: gender discrimination, death, sickness
read this if you: looking for a book embodying magic and one of the most feminist books I’ve ever read
What do you think? Let’s discuss in the comments below!