The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Fantasy/Historical, 313 pages, published in 2020

Nannerl Mozart’s greatest dream is to be remembered for her musical talents, but when it becomes clear that her younger brother, Wolfgang, is also quite talented, thus there is no need for her, she makes a wish to a prince from another world.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve had mixed thoughts on Marie Lu’s works in the past, but the premise (and the cover, if I’m being honest) of this book really had me interested.

The magic in this book is much more whimsical than I was expecting and definitely leans towards magical realism. I think it is up to the reader to decide how they interpret the fantasy elements in this book because I can see how it could be magical realism, but I can also see how it could have been real. Either way, I liked this element of the story a lot, and I also enjoyed how, at times, you couldn’t tell what was real and what was fantasy.

Throughout this story, Nannerl grows from a talented young girl to a still talented young woman. Because of how society limited women’s choices in the 1700’s, there is an expiration date to her ability to play music constantly looming over her. She even had to compose in secret because it was unheard of for a woman to be composing at this time.

I loved Nannerl’s complicated relationship with Wolfgang. She loves her brother dearly and goes through so much in order to protect him, but she also resents him because he is allowed to do what she isn’t purely based on gender. They perform together, but he is always the star, even if he thinks she’s the one is who is more talented. I enjoyed watching their growth as siblings throughout the book.

I still don’t know how I feel about this book. It doesn’t rewrite history, so it left me feeling kind of sad and bittersweet. If Nannerl had been allowed to compose and play like her brother, would we be referring her when we mention Mozart? Overall though, I appreciated the sibling bond, as well as learning a bit about history!

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