March 5, 2020

Book Review: The Kingdom of Back

The Kingdom of Back centers around a historical figure I wasn’t all that familiar with prior to reading this novel: Nannerl Mozart, elder sister to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (yes, that Mozart), a gifted musician and composer in her own right. Drawing inspiration from Nannerl’s own history, and the fictional world the siblings dreamed up in their younger years, Marie Lu has woven a lovely story for readers. It serves as a chronicle of Nannerl’s actual history, recounting her experiences as a performer and composer in a world where her options for the future are severely limited by her gender. But it also injects whimsy and the fantastical by treating the fictional Kingdom of Back as an existing magical place in the otherwise ordinary lives of the Mozart siblings.

I’m very fond of stories that are grounded in real history but reimagined in a way that encourages readers to imagine that the uncanny and the magical might have been present, and Marie Lu absolutely accomplishes that here. Readers are, in fact, invited to learn more about the Mozart siblings, their performance tour together at a variety of European locales and their respective musical talents. But we are also treated into their experiences (shared and individual) with the magical kingdom that allows them an escape from their daily realities, as well as the promise of a future filled with all they ever dreamed of (though the barter for it might not be as simple as initially expected).

The Kingdom of Back also has two specific aspects that I found personally resonant. First, there is Lu’s portrayal of the mostly loving, but not so simple sibling bond between Nannerl and Wolfgang. The nuances of their relationship, the ups and the downs, felt so authentic, and reminded me of my own experiences with my siblings. And second, there is Nannerl’s own struggle to reconcile her circumstances, talent and desires. Nannerl is a talented girl who desires to create and perform her own music and to be recognized and remembered for it. But the societal constraints for females at the time, as well as the fact that her brother is a talented male musician, box her in. Bearing witness to the ways she embraces her ambition and determination to rise above her circumstances was so compelling, particularly because it still happens to be like the experience of so many female creatives up until today.

It may be obvious if you’ve gotten this far into my review, but I really enjoyed The Kingdom of Back. Marie Lu has, once again, written a story that both fascinating and enchanting. While it evokes a different feeling than her previous releases, much like them, it still explores interesting themes in a well-written way. This is a historical fantasy that I’d for sure recommend adding to your TBR!

The Kingdom of Back was released on March 3, 2020 by G.P. Putnam's Sons BYR.
I received an ARC from the publisher for review, but all opinions here are my own.


  1. I'm really looking forward to reading this one, so I'm happy to see you enjoyed it! :)

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬


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