Title: The Kingdom of Back
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books
Genre: young adult, historical, fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★☆
I was given an ARC in exchange for a review. This review are my thoughts, and there are no spoilers in this post.
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.
[ This synopsis is from Goodreads. ]
If you didn’t see it at the top of the post, I’d like to reiterate that BookishFirst sent me an advanced readers copy of The Kingdom of Back in exchange for a review (which you are now currently reading). This review has my honest thoughts about the story.
With the formalities out of the way, let’s get on to the meat and potatoes of this review!
One of my first thoughts when I first saw that Marie Lu was going to write this book was thank goodness it isn’t a series. Not that I don’t mind Marie Lu’s series! I actually love her work, but I don’t think I could keep up with another series in general. College life is demanding. It requires a lot of energy and time, and I don’t have a lot to spare for my hobbies at the moment. With classes and an internship, I really don’t have time to read anything that isn’t a textbook. That’s why I’m extra thankful that I get to enjoy this story by one of my favorite YA authors without the hassle of a series.
A unique factor of The Kingdom of Back is how classical music is such a big factor in the story. I don’t know any YA novels that focus on a classical composer. The most I’ve seen of classical music in young adult literature is if a character plays a classical instrument or is part of an orchestra. As someone who grew up playing the piano and cello, seeing the two things that made up my childhood (music and books) come together seemed like a dream come true. That being said, I’m not sure I liked this story as much as I wanted to. It’s an interesting concept. I don’t know too many YA novels that take a historical figure’s life and add a mystical element to it. On top of that, it’s in the perspective of the sibling of the famous composer. I’m not sure how historically accurate the story is, but seeing the author’s take on Mozart’s life through the lens of a family member was really interesting. However, the plot itself seemed a little predictable.
What I should have done before reading The Kingdom of Back is alter my expectations. I went in expecting something more of the older side of young adult, but the book is geared towards the younger audience of YA. I just think I hyped it up in my mind too much because I love Marie Lu’s work.
The story is a little repetitive. There is this cycle of Nannerl traveling with her family across Europe while performing with her younger brother. There’s a lot of yearning for her father’s approval and wanting to compose music but not being able to. Then with great bouts of emotion, Hyacinth swoops in and takes her to the Kingdom of Back to fulfill her part of a promise made. Then she goes back into the real world and there is some sort of mishap that happens that makes her suspicious they’re related to her trips to the magical kingdom. And the cycle starts all over again several times. Despite my complaints, though, I can’t deny that the story is really interesting, and I really enjoyed it.
I think what makes this story so special is its imagery and the contrast between the real world and the Kingdom of Back. The kingdom itself is very rich and full of interesting details that I love about fantastical worlds. The real world seems a bit drab in comparison.
All in all, The Kingdom of Back is a solid story. I would recommend everyone to read it because it’s unlike anything I’ve seen in YA so far. It’s worth a read.
The girl’s got big goals and the ambition to match it.
It was interesting to see Marie Lu take parts of Mozart’s biography and add magical explanations behind them.
He’s kind of a [word that rhymes with itch] (trying to keep it family friendly here), but I can understand why he is the way he is. During that time, women weren’t really allowed to do much, let alone do what people considered a man’s work at the time. That being said, he didn’t have to do what he did to Nannerl. Like, at all.
The dude smiles too much. It’s creepy.
I give The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu 3.5 out of 5 unicorn horns. A wonderful story to complement the magical aspects of music.
Until next time….