The Kingdom of Back

The Kingdom of Back

Book - 2020
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"Desperate to be forever remembered for her music, Nannerl Mozart makes a dangerous pact with a mysterious stranger from a magical land, which may cost her everything"-- Provided by publisher.
Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish: to be remembered forever. She delights audiences with her masterful playing, but 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. Meanwhile the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, 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. -- adapted from jacket
Publisher: New York : G. P. Putnam's Sons, [2020]
ISBN: 9781524739010
Branch Call Number: TEEN LU
Characteristics: 313 pages : maps ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

This intriguing novel combines a fantastical fictional fairy realm with the true-ish story of Mozart’s talented older sister. Suggested by Melleny T.

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“Even monsters must dream of fears and wants, and the sadness in his voice drew me closer.”

Nannerl Mozart, the older sister of Wolfgang Mozart, is desperate to be remembered. Though her brother hasn’t yet reached double digits, his musical prowess has already begun to overshadow hers, their father favoring him—and his masculinity—over her. All Nannerl wants is recognition. But one night, she slips into the Kingdom of Back, an ethereal and wondrous place that she and her brother fancied up in stories. There, she meets the enigmatic princeling Hyacinth, who claims that he can grant her wish. But nothing he does comes without a price…

After many years of writing science fiction, Marie Lu proves that she is a master of all genres with this historical reimagining of the Mozart siblings. Brimming with luscious prose and characters full of heart and vigor, “The Kingdom of Back” is a stunning and immersive tale of sibling-hood, fame, and the price of wishing. Sure to please both longtime fans of Marie Lu, newcomers, and lovers of YA fantasy and historical fiction.

This one was just okay for me, despite a premise that got me really excited combined with one of my auto-buy authors.

Nannerl Mozart is a musical prodigy. That is, until her brother, five years her junior, shows even more of an aptitude for music than she. Nannerl plays with Woferl for his entire life, and the two develop as musicians together through their journeys across Europe. But in secret, the pair also visit a magical land, the Kingdom of Back, where Nannerl is told that her heart's wish will come true, if only she helps a faery gain his rightful place as prince back. Is it all worth it, to be remembered? Or is Nannerl leading herself and her brother down an irreversible path?

I really love the idea of Mozart's equally talented sister and telling her story. When I first heard that Marie Lu was publishing this, one of her earliest-written works, I was SO excited. Her books are typically peppered with interesting characters and plots that keep me flipping the pages, but sadly, neither of these were the case with this one.

For me, this was just flat, in many ways. The plot is fairly linear, and truly, not much happens. The time spent in the Kingdom comes after a few chapters of real-world time, every time; Nannerl completes her tasks for the mysterious Hyacinth, and of course, things are not as they seem, but to me, that's evident from their first encounter with him. It all felt formulaic, stilted, and honestly, pretty boring, which I did not expect. The Kingdom itself is magical, whimsical, and creative, but what happens there just...isn't.

What saves this one from fewer stars from me is the way Marie weaves critiques of the world and a woman's supposed place in it throughout the story. The way Nannerl's father treats her in comparison to Woferl, the way that her voice is silenced at every turn, the way she's cultivated to be a wife and nothing more, all of it made my blood boil, and the entire premise of the book, the "what would happen if Mozart's sister had more of a voice", is just so heartbreaking in and of itself. And through it all, Nannerl still loves her brother, and him, her; it's just such a melancholy tone throughout, and the lost potential of such a wonderful musical talent is astounding.

I do also like the way that the magical elements were mixed in with the factual elements of the time. I live for a good historical fantasy, and though this one definitely leans more towards historical fiction, that genre blend really draws me in every time. I think maybe because I've read quite a bit of it, I am more critical of it as a whole - in this case, I just didn't feel that it was used to its fullest potential. That said, putting myself into the shoes of a girl in 18th century Austria was absolutely an exercise in heartache, and I can give this book credit for that, even if I didn't feel as invested as I wanted to in the story.

Overall, I think I just struggled to get into this one because of its pacing. It felt so slow that I did not want to pick it up. And when I did, the twists I expected kept showing up, so I just never fully immersed myself in the world. I usually love a good magical world, and historical fiction is something I tend to adore. But in this case, there was just something missing for me.

Apr 11, 2020

While the writing was beautiful and I liked it well enough, this kinda just ended up depressing me.

OPL_KrisC Mar 13, 2020

A dark fantasy for teens about Mozart and his older sister, Nannerl. A pick for music lovers.


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OPL_KrisC Mar 13, 2020

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


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