The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

The Kingdom of Back – Marie LuTitle: The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Publishing Info: March 3, 2020 by Penguin
Source: Received from the publisher for review purposes
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Date Completed: February 18, 2020
Find it on the web: Buy from Amazon // Goodreads
Related Posts: Legend (Legend #1), Warcross (Warcross #1), Batman: Nightwalker (DC Icons #2)

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.

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I was really excited to try THE KINGDOM OF BACK, something totally different from Marie Lu’s previous books! I’ve read the Legend trilogy and the Warcross duet, so I was interested to see what THE KINGDOM OF BACK would have in store, knowing how a good portal-world book can capture my curiosity. This one ended up being just a bit too different in too many ways for me and it just ended up not being a “me” book.

This was definitely a case of “It’s not you, it’s me.” The writing in this book was just lovely and and it was a lot more prosaic and lyrical (which is fitting since the book is about music — ha!) but I usually don’t get along with these types of writing styles with very few exceptions. If that’s a writing style that you enjoy, I think this could be an instant hit for you, but I just know it’s something that I don’t particularly care for and I feel like things end up being too drawn out.

I also just had a complicated relationship with the book overall. I really, really did not like the fantasy aspect of the book. There is a portal world/alternate universe type-thing happening here but it really wasn’t what I was expecting. It largely revolved around faeries which I have zero interest in and some of the faerie magic was just a bit too fanciful for me. My magical preferences are more about systems and structures than whimsy so I just really didn’t care for it at all and I hated the parts that glanced back over at the faerie world. It wasn’t that it was bad, but again, tooootally not my thing.

The children are young for most of the book and it takes a very long time for them to even been teenagers, so I would barely even call this YA. It’s more so a book that maybe doesn’t need an age categorization since it’s not a specifically teen coming-of-age story but really just a story about these two children and their lives. I also didn’t understand for the beginning of the book why it was important for this story to be about the Mozart children and it was kind of annoying that it could have been anyone. This does make a little more sense and ties into the story more as the book goes on, so I eventually did end up liking how it tied in (even if I didn’t like the fantasy world still). By the time the book was ending, I actually found that I would have liked the Mozart story by itself all together and a fun YA historical fiction book about the Mozart children that didn’t have fantastical elements would have been cool too.

I think fans of The Hazel Wood and Uprooted will enjoy this. 

There is an author’s note at the end of the book where Marie Lu explains the origins of the book. She had discovered that Mozart had a sister that was barely ever heard of so she investigated her story, and The Kingdom of Back was a real (well, “real”) place that the Mozart children invented and they used it to pass the time in their carriage rides (which does happen in the book, as well as further development of the world). If I had known that beforehand, it would have been much more interesting knowing that The Kingdom of Back actually had historical origins and that was why/how the book came about. I still wouldn’t have cared about the fairy world but it would have made me a little more interested to understand actual historical significance of the fantasy world and that’s why it was included. That author’s note to allow me the hindsight to make this connection is the only reason I felt in the middle about this book instead of disappointed.

It’s actually weird looking back because I really enjoyed the end of the book and it left on a good note. The book wasn’t bad at all but between the writing and the faerie world, it really just wasn’t my style and if I had known that, I might have not read the book or at least waited to hear from someone else if I might like it. I’m actually still kind of glad I read it because I did enjoy the historical aspect of the book but I wish I could have enjoyed it more!

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Kept Me Hooked On: Historical Fiction. I really don’t usually enjoy historical fiction, but I really enjoyed knowing that this stemmed from something real in history. That’s really what held my interest!
Left Me Wanting More: Reality. I just really didn’t care for the fantasy aspect in this book, weirdly enough. It was too whimsical for me and I just don’t love fairy type fantasy.

Addiction Rating
Check the reviews

I think you’ll either love it or end up feeling like I do. If this is your style, you’ll probably love it! If you think we share some opinions, I would say check out some more reviews.

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2 thoughts on “The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

  1. Jessica @ a GREAT read

    Interesting! I admit, I was hesitant to even look beyond this one because I thought it would have a more historical contemporary element with little on the fantasy or “weird” as I call it. To hear that that was the part that kept you from fully enjoying this one makes me think it could be more my style than I thought! Nice review all the same! Glad you enjoyed aspects of the story!

  2. Lindsi

    I’m really glad I read your review before picking this one up! I would have been really disappointed to read a book with young kids when I was expecting something geared towards young adults. I know you said they eventually grow up, but that their time as children was significant. Thanks for the review!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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