Oct 28, 2021

Review--The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu


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.



Next up in my TBR kick, is Marie Lu's The Kingdom of Back, a historical fiction fantasy kind of read that explores the little known sister of Mozart, Nannerl. I admit to having reservations about this book, mostly because it seemed like it would be more of a historical fiction read with light fantasy elements, and sadly that was the case. But once I was halfway in, I couldn't bring myself to DNF after all that time.

This is the story of the great Mozart's older sister, Nannerl. Before reading this book I didn't know much about the history around Mozart. I vaguely recall watching the movie Amadeus once, but that was years ago, and if The Simpsons are to be believed, was historically inaccurate on many points. Lol. So I don't even recall if that mentioned his sister or not. My knowledge of remembered history facts usually surround haunted history locations, lol. But anyway, this story focuses on Nanerl from a young age and we watch her grow into a young woman as the story moves on.

Nannerl has always had a talent for music and she strives to make her father proud of her. She knows a day will come when she will have to give up the music life in order to be a wife and a mother. For it's in this time of history where women had no say in their own lives and must marry at a young age, have lots of children, and so on and so on. So Nannerl is trying to make something of herself in the time she has left. Then, her younger brother whom she affectionately calls Woferl, sits at the clavier and just starts playing beautiful music, having listened to his sister play it enough. This feat blows his father's mind enough that he has him practice alongside Nannerl so that the two may tour the country and play for all the important people to gain fame and fortune for the family.

To pass the time when traveling from place to place, Nannerl and Woferl tell stories to one another and create a magical world of their own that they name the Kingdom of Back. It isn't long until they begin to dream of this place and are guided by a mysterious boy who calls himself Hyacinth. He needs their help in order to get his kingdom back which had been barred from him by evil entities. It's all very faery world like what with the magical creatures and all. Nannerl grew up on her mother's stories which she in turn told to Woferl.

As time moves on and the children grow, Nannerl is forced to watch her brother prosper while she remains in the shadow. Nothing she does is ever good enough for her father. It was saddening to watch, but at the same time you realize this is how history was back then for women, especially young women who dare to have dreams.

My problems with the story started when the times the children traveled to the Kingdom of Back happened few and far between. Most of it was everyday life occurrences for children of their age in the mid 1700s of Austria. So if you're a fan of historical fiction, you will positively love this one! If you were like me and hoping for more of the fantasy elements, you might be disappointed. 

According to Marie's author note, there was very little to be found on Nannerl in the history books. She sadly didn't leave much of a mark in history, but Marie did discover that she and Woferl did have a good sibling relationship. They wrote letters often with each other and Nannerl did possibly help to compose some of her own musical work. Other aspects I wondered at with their validity, just because I'm not a history buff, I've no clue where to start to see if Nannerl and Woferl really did cross paths with a Grimm brother and Marie Antoinette. It was fun to see historical figures I actually recognize in passing!

For me, the pacing to this one was rather slow, but again, I'm not a contemporary reader. While this is a historical fiction book, much of what happens is what I call "the everyday life." Nothing exciting happens beyond normal happenstances. That's just not my kind of read, what I longed for were the trips to the faery world of the Kingdom of Back. That was where the mystery and magic of the story lied! I found these moments fascinating and entertaining.

But sadly, in the end, this book just wasn't for me. I still gave it the college try and all. I was close to DNFing it the first day, but I surprised myself by reading over half the book. Sometimes I just don't know when to quit even if I am not fully enjoying myself. While this wasn't the read for me, I still strongly urge anyone who loves a good historical fiction read a try! It was still interesting enough to read about a sibling of a famous composer from the 1700s, when you get to read about the unknown sibling, the creativity knows no bounds and Marie did it splendidly!

Overall Rating 2.5/5 stars

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