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.
Publisher: New York : Putnam/G. P. Putnam's Sons, [2020]
ISBN: 9781524739010
Characteristics: 313 pages : maps ; 22 cm
Call Number: Y LU, M


From Library Staff

Mozart's Europe + Magical Kingdom

Marie Lu spins a lush, lyrically told story of music, magic, and the unbreakable bond between a brother and sister. We discussed this book on October 14th, 2020.

Desperate to be forever remembered for her music, Nannerl Mozart, Mozart's sister, makes a dangerous pact with a mysterious stranger from a magical land, which may cost her everything.

From the critics

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Jan 20, 2021

The Kingdom of Back is a new 2020 novel written by Marie Lu. Set in 18th century Austria, this story is a fictional retelling of composer Wolfgang Mozart’s older sister, Marianne, known as “Nannerl.” Told over a decade, the story is a mixture of historical fiction and fantasy based on the kingdom that the young siblings created from their imaginations: "The Kingdom of Back". Filled within the kingdom scenes, which bring to mind a fantastical realm more common of the author’s previous novels, are elements of historical fiction which depict gender inequity among others. These address the struggle that the main character faces to be recognized for her compositions, which, at the time, were not considered because of her gender. The novel addresses this in a way that is sadly realistic, though there is still hope for Nannerl to be rewarded for her achievements. These messages along with descriptions of Nannerl with her brother “Woferl,” make the story memorable and sweet to read. The writing is descriptive and evocative throughout. For those who enjoy classical piano/clavier music this novel will also have broad appeal. Along with fantasy and alternate history, there is also some romance and interesting family dynamics. This book is my favourite of Marie Lu’s as I especially enjoyed her writing and understanding of the main character. Rating: 4.5/5 stars -@BellaReads of the Hamilton Public Library's Teen Review Board

Oct 22, 2020

This book is wonderful. It shows us how lucky we are today (well most of us, women), to be able to express freely and do the same things men do. Even thuogh i dont generally like fantasy i liked this book beacsue the fantasy realted to the histoical part as well. I like Nannerl and find her a very well devleped character. I did not know that she was such a talented composer (almost better the woferl). Its too bad taht becasue she was a womne her work did not survive and was not heard by others.
i suggest this book if you are a music lover:)
and thank you m.s lu. forcreating this wonderful story and letting us all know of wolferl mozarts extremely taleneted sister!
read this book!

“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.


Add Age Suitability
Dec 29, 2020

kaitoryn thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Nov 17, 2020

sarahhume thinks this title is suitable for between the ages of 10 and 14

OPL_KrisC Mar 13, 2020

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over


Add a Summary
Dec 27, 2020

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 eighteenth-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.

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.


Add a Quote
Dec 29, 2020

“I signed them Mozart.”
I leaned forward. “Just Mozart?”
“Yes. For both of us. We are both Mozart, are we not?”


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