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The Kingdom of Back

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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.

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.

313 pages, Hardcover

First published March 3, 2020

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About the author

Marie Lu

59 books133k followers
[Note: Many apologies, but I'm woefully bad at checking my Goodreads emails! If you'd like to send a note/msg, please catch me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Marie_Lu . Thanks!]

I write young adult novels, and have a special love for dystopian books. Ironically, I was born in 1984. Before becoming a full-time writer, I was an Art Director at a video game company. Now I shuffle around at home and talk to myself a lot. :)

I graduated from the University of Southern California in '06 and currently live in LA, where I spend my time stuck on the freeways.

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5 stars
4,280 (21%)
4 stars
7,570 (38%)
3 stars
5,976 (30%)
2 stars
1,553 (7%)
1 star
342 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 4,423 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,962 reviews294k followers
March 9, 2020
I am going to tell you a story you already know. But listen carefully, because within it is one you have never heard before.

Without a doubt, this is Marie Lu's most fascinating book to date.

In school, we studied Virginia Woolf's concept of the fictional "Shakespeare's sister". In A Room of One's Own, Woolf imagines that Shakespeare had a sister who was as talented, as imaginative, as capable as her brother, but because she was a woman, she had to stay home. She never had the opportunities Shakespeare did. This idea was to demonstrate how much talent has been wasted throughout history... just because it belonged to women. What I didn't know is that we don't need to imagine a fictional sister of a talented man-- we have one. Nannerl Mozart.

I knew nothing about this before reading The Kingdom of Back. I knew nothing of the girl who was a child prodigy, a musical genius alongside her brother, but forbidden from composing by her father. I didn't know that, as adults, Wolfgang begged Nannerl to send him her compositions in letters. I didn't know that the young Mozart siblings came up with their own fantasy world while they were touring Europe and called it "Das Königreich Rücken”. The Kingdom of Back.

This book is Lu's passion project; her first novel, put on hold for over a decade while she wrote the more widely-appealing dystopian and fantasy works we've come to know her for. Here, she combines historical fiction - the stifling feeling of being a woman in 18th Century Europe, the airs and graces of the courts, the spectre of smallpox - with fantasy. As Nannerl sees the future she longs for, the acknowledgement and immortality she craves, slipping away from her, The Kingdom of Back beckons.

She strikes a bargain with a Fae boy: complete several tasks for him and he will help her achieve her dreams. But all is not as it seems, of course. How far is Nannerl willing to go to be remembered?

I wasn't immediately sold on the fantasy aspects, to be honest. Nannerl completes fairy tale-like quests in The Kingdom of Back - retrieving a sword from an ogre and a night flower from a witch, etc. - and I didn’t fully understand it at first. But it did all come together quite wonderfully.

But it is the searing unfairness of it that made me keep reading on anxiously. I found myself telling everyone I talked to about this book… I was so affected by it. So angered, saddened and frustrated that so much talent could be allowed to go to waste. As Lu says in her powerful Author's Note:
What legacy could Nannerl have left if she’d been given the kind of attention and access that her brother enjoyed? What beautiful creations were lost to us forever because Nannerl was a woman? How many other countless talents have been silenced by history, whether for their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic circumstances?

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Profile Image for Miranda Reads.
1,589 reviews155k followers
December 8, 2020

OHMYGOSH. Goodreads Choice Nominees are here and...I couldn't resist a Reaction Video! Don't forget to vote!

Annnd here's my original reaction to this book!


A new BookTube Video is Up all about whether you should buy, borrow or burn 2020 YA books! Let me know what you think!
The Written Review

I am going to tell you a story you already know. But listen carefully, because within it is one you have never heard before.
There's two Mozarts, but the world remembered only one of them.

Nannerl, had one wish - to be remembered.

She and her brother toured all throughout Europe but despite all her ambitions, she's still a product of her time.
The older we were, the less magnificent we seemed.
She has a gift for composing but women were not encouraged, or allowed to do such.

Bu then one day, she meets a mysterious person - Hyacinth. He comes from the Kingdom of Back - which is the polar opposite of her world. Upside down trees and the like.

At first, it was a story told between Wolfgang and Nannerl. A fun bedtime who can promise her the world, in exchange for a few...tasks.

And at first she's happy to comply...but as she becomes closer to Hyacinth, she starts realizing that what he says and the truth are two slightly different things.

Can she trust him? Should she trust him? Is it too late to escape?
Even monsters must dream of fears and wants, and the sadness in his voice drew me closer.

After slogging though six of her books, I think Marie Lu has finally hooked me.

It was really cool to learn that Wolfgang's sister was an actual prodigy and (in real life) the two of them created an imaginary world (The Kingdom of Back).

I loved how Marie Lu brought this fairy world to life.

It was really neat to watch it weave into the real world but I really wanted it to be firmer. It felt like brief interludes when I would've preferred it to be a more permanent fixture of the book. (kind of like how Holly Blacks goes all-in with the fae).

I also felt like Nannerl was a bit of a broken record when it came to "women just don't DO this stuff" but I suppose that's just how it was.

Other than that, I actually did enjoy most of this book.

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Profile Image for NickReads.
461 reviews1,199 followers
Want to read
January 17, 2020
Who spread the rumor that Marie Lu has replicated herself and the army of hers is going to attack us with a million books during the upcoming years?
Profile Image for jessica.
2,534 reviews32.5k followers
March 23, 2020
i love it when stories have the power to inspire action. i love that feeling when you turn the last page and you arent ready to let go of the story just yet, so you do something to make its presence linger, to keep the story in your heart just a little longer.

this made me pick up my violin, which i havent touched in about a year, and play one of mozarts violin concertos that i learned when i was a teenager. it was a struggle, but i loved that this story motivated me to do that.

i think fans of marie lu will be really surprised by this novel. gone is her dramatic dystopian storytelling and in its place is a light and whimsically crafted tale. and i really like this look for her writing. it feels fresh and quite beautiful at times.

this is perfect for readers who love historical fiction, fantasy, and stories about the special bond between a bother and sister.

4 stars
Profile Image for megs_bookrack.
1,537 reviews9,795 followers
January 18, 2023
**4.5-stars rounded up**

In the Author's Note, Marie Lu tells of her real-life inspiration for The Kingdom of Back. A book over a decade in the making, you can tell Lu poured her heart and soul into this project.

Known for her complex and forward-thinking YA SF, Lu takes a sharp turn with The Kingdom of Back, a subtly Dark Fantasy with lyrical prose.

Even though this is not her typical story, I think it shines an extremely bright light on Lu's level of skill as a writer.

I am the first to admit that I am a big sucker for any story involving music, or musicians, particularly classical musicians.

Growing up, I played classical violin, piano and dappled with the clarinet. I was in multiple orchestras, yes, first chair violin, and I think that world always remains a part of your soul.

Lu mentions that she too was a musician in her early life and after reading a biography of Mozart developed the idea for this story.

Unlike my normal reviews, I am not really going to give details as to what this story is about. I feel strongly that it is best to go into this one not knowing what to expect.

Mainly following Mozart's unknown sister, Nannerl, this story quickly transforms from a historic fiction account of the Mozart family's life, to a dark fantasy with a portal to another world and a Faustian bargain of sorts.

In addition to the fantastical elements of the story, there is also a great examination of the role of women in this time period and the affect that society's expectations had on their productivity and spirit.

If you do pick up this book, I implore you to please, please, please read the Author's Note at the end. Reading Lu's words and thoughts on this story and why she wrote it, bumped this up from a 4, to a 5-star read for me.

I was so impressed with this story.

It was a dark, delicious, delightful read and further solidifies my belief that Marie Lu is an absolute treasure!

Profile Image for Nilufer Ozmekik.
2,199 reviews40.7k followers
April 3, 2022
This is breathtaking! A fresh creative approach: dark fairy tale meets historical fiction based on true events.

Let’s meet with Nannerl Mozart : Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s not so much known sister who is also a musical prodigy, having only one important wish: to be remembered forever with her talent! She can attract attention of huge audience’s with magical fingers playing with piano keys, touching your soul softly and reaching to your deepest feelings, melting your heart with tunes.

But she was born in wrong gender and wrong century for her passion. Being a woman musician at 18th century Europe is forbidden profession. She has to give up on her dreams as his brother walks into his path to become one of the greatest composers of the century!

I honestly have no idea that siblings created a special fantasy world called “ Kingdom is back”. I am so intrigued to learn more about their unique bond and creation process of a masterpiece which will be an eternal musical feast!

Of course when you read any of Marie Lu’s novels, you get used to be charmed by her fantasy world. Nannerl doesn’t make an agreement with the devil to be immortal. She wants to be immortal with her work. She wants to have equal rights which is understandable. So she is forced to make bargain with a Fae boy.

Her wish to be remembered with her musical talent may push her too far from her comfort zone and she can risk more than she can gain! Did she make the worst mistake of her life by trusting the magical creature? We’ll see about it!

The historical fiction parts of the book awakened my love of Amadeus’ amazing works. I wanted to get more details, learning more back stories of siblings. It truly increased my bookish appetite. I literally wanted to devour the pages. But fantasy parts were a little complex for me at first. Some pieces didn’t fit properly but when I reached the end, I got all the metaphorical references, put the pieces at the right spaces and I enjoyed the complete, surprising puzzle!

It was enjoyable, unique, original, hooking, mesmerizing reading journey! Learning more things about musical prodigies and breathing the same air, time traveling at 18th century Europe were fantastic experience!

Giving my 4 magical, musical, fairytale, symphonic fantasy stars!

Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,465 reviews9,620 followers
October 1, 2020
UPDATE: $2.99 on kindle US today 10/1/29

This came in my March Owlcrate. Pretty silver, shimery edges. And candle, socks, notecard, Art, lip balm, etc.

Omg! I had no idea Mozart had a sister that was just as talented, but held back for being a girl. Girls weren’t allowed to compose!!

Marie talks about this in her acknowledgments so read that as well. She’s added some fantasy to the world with a bit of truth. I’m thoroughly impressed and enjoyed the book!

Mel 🖤🐶🐺🐾
Profile Image for Hamad.
1,009 reviews1,326 followers
October 6, 2020
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“I am going to tell you a story you already know. But listen carefully, because within it is one you have never heard before.”

When I started reading this book, I remembered why I used to enjoy Marie’s books so much! The writing at the beginning of this book is just superb! Marie is an awesome author who is one of the few unproblematic authors and that’s why I like reading her works!

There are many things that I am to blame for: The fact that this is YA which I am not interested in as much as before now! The fact that it is historical fiction which I am not a big fan of! The characters were good and prodigies (I read all Marie’s books and all her MC are prodigies) but this time I can understand that because it was not far from the truth!

I really enjoyed the feminist side of the book and ended up learning a few new facts about the Mozarts and I was really surprised by the fact that there were 2 musical prodigies!

The book is not as action-packed or dark as Marie’s other books are but if you are a fan of the genre or music in general then I think it is worth giving a chance!

You can get more books from Book Depository
Profile Image for Cardan Greenbriar.
90 reviews910 followers
March 23, 2020
“But be wary of what you wish for,” he went on. “Wishes have a habit of surprising their makers.”

and me

What great injustice that after 4 days of release this book only has less than 400 ratings
Who set the date similar to another *ahem* overly hyped book's release date?
talk about a motherfucking book hangover

I am such a mess that i don't even know how to properly review

I have never cried this much during a happy ending

So our very beloved Marie Lu has presented us with a beautiful historical fiction entwined with a dark lush fantasy world

This book is euphony itself - the music description is magical and glorious.
Set in an aura of greed and want, this is a story of rising - not one- but many's prominence and influence.
I love how Marie has woven a true historical story with a concocted fantasy world.

Since Maria Anna Mozart (Nannerl's) story is real i'm not gonna give away too much or else i'll spoil the interesting parts.

All i want to give away is that in the "human world" Nannerl and her brother Wolfgang are child prodigies in music. They are really close together and adore each other very much. Their father (Leopold) greedily pressures Nannerl and Wolfgang to play even finer in their childhood days so that the onlookers can be impressed and dazzled more, resulting in more money and glory. He makes Nannerl perform a great many before her marriageable age. Leopold also wants Wolfgang to improve his performance more than his sister.
Nannerl wants to be remembered and honored forever. And I think Wolfgang wants to slap all of them (y do i think that i don't know).
And then Hyacinth a mysterious (oh so beautiful) creature appears being all :
“You have your desires, and I have mine.” He leaned his head closer to me. “You want immortality. I want my throne.”

This book conveys through two worlds; the real one where Leopold wants fame, money and control over his children. Nannerl and her wish to be remembered and praised. The Mozart's family's trips through Europe and their musical performances for Royals and other great audiences.
And the Kingdom of Back from where Hyacinth comes from. It's a beautiful, magical place filled with dark secrets.


and after reading the book when i saw this beautiful map at the end


Profile Image for Vibur (hiatus).
42 reviews230 followers
July 6, 2020
(The sad violinist in me realising she has no talent after reading this novel.)

First off, the writing, wow. All I want to say is, if I was to choose a colour to characterise the writing, it'd most assuredly be blue. All the impossibly beautiful shades of blue, all its vibrancy and subtlety imbued, to paint the deepest of seas and palest of winter snow.
In all honesty, I should've loved this novel. And I'd have loved if it was a historical fiction rather than a fantasy. At times, the magical realism felt oddly dissonant, an unmelodic mismatch of notes distracting from the thematic focus. It didn't add any more value to the novel than what it'd already have—rather, it diminished what was already a 'magical' story in itself.

But all the same, there's something about the story that resonates so deeply and personally—a vibrantly beautiful vibrato, ebbing and throbbing through my veins. It's a story about pouring our passions into something that ultimately will not last. A story rooted in history and yet relentlessly pertinent, steeped in telling immediacy.
And it was magical. Not for being a fantasy, but for its portrayals of people and relationships. For showing how there is magic in realising—magic in realising not the fantastical, but the familiar all around us. And for showing how there is magic in us, in those of us who dream, and have dreamt, of something more than what we have.

(Aaand, now I gotta go practise, whoops.)


note: the violinist in me wanted to write all sorts of stupid musical-ly puns into this review, but all good, got her all tied up and stashed in the attic for now, be glad, y'all
Profile Image for Sofia.
258 reviews6,469 followers
February 24, 2021
Might as well get this started.

took pain killer meds due to back bag. I know look exactly like this gif. excepts I'm a man. not a Little girl. - GIF on Imgur

I am so underwhelmed by that terrible ending that I kind of resent this book now. It was good, sure, but it wasn't anything too special, and the characters certainly don't help.

Nannerl was Mozart's sister who faded out of history due to her status as a woman in the 1700s. But she was actually a child prodigy as well, and composed many pieces, none of which have survived. We only know of these compositions because of her letters to her brother. But as soon as she hit 18, she was married off and promptly forgotten. Her story is very tragic. I did some background research after finishing this, and what I found was just saddening. She had so much potential--she may have even been more talented than her brother, Woferl. But she was shunned and shut away, simply because she was a woman. Luckily, things have changed, or I wouldn't be writing this review right now.

However, I don't think this book did her justice. I was motivated to finish by the injustice of it all, not because I actually cared about her character. She was pretty much a standard heroine. No strong emotions most of the time, very bland and uninteresting. Her bond with Woferl was the highlight of this book, though. It was strained at times, but I was close to crying when Woferl told Nannerl he just wanted to be like her. How sweet.

This is the story of Nannerl, her beloved compositions, and a faerie prince who promises her immortality in the hearts of musicians everywhere. It's very compelling, but lacks a satisfying ending (the big showdown was over in less than ten pages).

The best thing about The Kingdom of Back was the writing. It's atmospheric, evocative, and blends reality with fantasy in such a skillful way that I was constantly guessing what was real and what wasn't. The descriptions are lush and vivid, bursting with life. Marie Lu has definitely improved over the years. I've only read a few chapters of Legend, but this is so much better. Beautiful.

3 stars
Profile Image for Mara YA Mood Reader.
336 reviews266 followers
October 1, 2020
10/1/2020: $2.99 on Kindle US today

3/29/2020: Well that was depressing. A sad story, beautifully told. And so unlike most YA Historical Fiction/Fantasy, it was most refreshing.

The Kingdom of Back was not at all what I expected it to be. And I suppose that was the saving grace in my experience. Although, still, I was not especially enthralled.

The YA genre needs books like this though. Wether it not be much in my tastes, it is true that the genre is often filled with unrealistically ridiculous romance plots that we both eat up and also eye roll at the same time.

There is no romance here. No boy pining. No girl pining. No unrealistically and ridiculous handsome or gorgeous love interests. No one is throwing themselves at cruel boys that treat them poorly but are “oh-so-hot” we hate to love them and love to hate them.

And there’s no slow burn, drawn out over 3-5 books romance or mystery or coming into their powers tropes here either! This is a stand alone! Very Refreshing!

And if the lack of tropes is not your thing than I highly recommend Wintersong instead of The Kingdom of Back. In fact this reminded me so much of Wintersong but sadly lacking, that I almost feel compelled to read Wintersong again because what I was wanting and hoping for in The Kingdom of Back was just not there as it is in Wintersong.

The story you already know is set in a real land, full of kings and castles and courts. There are long carriage rides and summer concerts and a little boy in a royal coat.

The story you have never heard is set in a dream of fog and stars, faery princelings and queens of the night. It is about the Kingdom of Back, and the girl who found it.

I am the sister, the other Mozart, and the girl who found it.

*eeeeek* Will the unboxing of my exclusive Owlcrate edition finally prompt me to read? And will this beautiful book bring an end to what has become the longest reading slump of my life to date?

Sounds a bit like Wintersong with the musical siblings in a time of female opression. And I’ve never read Marie Lu before???
Profile Image for Danielle.
806 reviews400 followers
June 8, 2021
2021 F.A.B. Bookclub pick # I.❤️. F.A.B.

I honestly did not know that Mozart had a sister, who was equally as talented. 🧐 Sad, that her own music was not published and heard. I found that historic part of the story very fascinating. Anyway- the magical whimsical fairyland parts were better than expected. 🤗 Overall, this was a pretty good read. ❤️📚
Profile Image for Samantha.
417 reviews16.7k followers
April 25, 2020
If you enjoy sibling stories and classical music, this may be one you’ll want to pick up. It reminded me a lot of Wintersong by S Jae Jones, but with no romance. It has that same kind of darker fairy tale element to it, with the theme of music and family bonds.
Profile Image for Ashley.
800 reviews442 followers
May 19, 2020
Star Rating: —> 4 Stars

What a wonderful fairytale filled with all the ingredients to make a story an absolutely joyous adventure to read!

This made me feel like I was a little girl again, in one corner of the house or another, reading in the sunlight.

Truly a beautifully and elegantly woven tale, about Nannerl Mozart, the brilliant sister that time almost left forgotten, & her brother Wolfgang, their secret kingdom, music, faeries, magic, & most of all, love.

Profile Image for Tani.
245 reviews256 followers
April 9, 2020

"Look hard enough, Fräulein, and the kingdom will show you every truth that your world doesn't."

Kingdom of Back is a historical retelling of the Mozart siblings, Nannerl and Woferl, with faeries. It's magical realism. Although the concept of the book had much potential, it misses it's mark. It's predictable and dismal.

The story is based upon the childhood of Marianne 'Nannerl' Mozart and Wolfgang 'Wolferl' Mozart. Like her brother, Nannerl has talent of music and composure. She longs to be validated by her father and the world for her talent. Due to medieval patriarchal system, her talent is overshadowed by Wolferl's gifts at a younger age. Hyacinth, a faery princeling, offers Nannerl with acknowledgement and fame for her talent in exchange for three tasks.

Surprisingly, Kingdom of Back was created by the real Mozart siblings and the author took a chance to write a story on it. The books adheres to facts while straying towards the faeries and their dubious natures. The world building was on point, at least in terms of YA level but the overall story is unimaginative. It reminded me of Shadow and Bone with tad less drama and more concrete prose. Anyone could've smelled the ending miles away and the plot wasn't engaging enough to compensate for it. The author put efforts towards symbolism and preaching so the book missed it's mark way too lower than it should.

After reading the author's note, I felt like I was cheated. Some parts of the plot line that I thought was created by the author were actually the real incidences. Not only the characters were one dimensional but their somewhat appealing traits were the tidbits of the real people. If you cut out Hyacinth's story, which I think you can predict from the blurb, there's nothing new here. Nothing. Abso-fudging-lutely nothing.

Thanks for putting me in a reading slump.
Profile Image for Virginia Ronan ♥ Herondale ♥.
531 reviews34.5k followers
September 18, 2022
I’m on BookTube now! =)

”Music is the sound of God, Nannerl, he would say. If given the talent, it means God has chosen you as an ambassador for His voice. Your music will be as if God has given you eternal life.
My father, God ... there was little difference between them to me. A frown from Papa might as well have been a frown from Heaven, for what it did to my mood.”

This story was unlike anything I ever read by Marie Lu and even though her tale about Mozart’s sister Nannerl had a couple of weaknesses I still enjoyed this beautiful book. As someone who comes from Mozart’s country and basically grew up with his legend ever since I started to think, Marie Lu certainly didn’t have it easy with me. I mean it’s always difficult to write about a topic if there’s an audience that knew about it before they were even out of their diapers. Mozart’s tale is such an integral part of our history and culture that little kids like my own already know about him and collect stickers for their sticker album. So yes, Marie Lu definitely didn’t have it easy with a critical audience like me, she did manage to capture my interest though.

His smile widened at that. He looked like he had heard every thought unspoken in my mind. “It’s immortality you seek, then,” he said. “You burn with the ambition to leave your voice in the world. You fear your father will forget about you if you cannot do this. All your life, you have ached to be seen.”

I think the fact that she only lent the characters and wove a unique story around them worked in her favour here. It’s historical fiction after all and with that in mind it was easier to overlook some of the historical facts being bent or not entirely accurate. I don’t know if Marie Lu ever visited Austria and actually went to see Mozart’s birth house in the Getreidegasse but she managed to write about it convincingly and to me it almost felt like I was there myself. (I actually was there myself so knew exactly what she wrote about)

The only thing that was extremely jarring was the use of “Woferl” instead of “Wolferl”. If you look up Mozart on Wikipedia “Woferl” is mentioned as one of his nicknames but let me tell you this (and this says an Austrian who grew up with Mozart) no one over here would ever call him like that. If you talk about Mozart in Austria people will always say “Wolferl”. It comes from Wolfgang and “Wolferl” is the nickname everyone here would use. I guess Marie Lu might have used “Woferl” because it’s probably easier to pronounce for people that don’t speak German but for me, personally, it got kind of annoying. My brain always automatically corrected it to “Wolferl” and even when I reached the ending of the book I just couldn’t get over the use of this nickname. I’m not saying it’s wrong, because Wikipedia clearly states it as one of his many nicknames, none of us Austrians would ever call him like that in a conversation though. Just to get this out there into the world because correct representation is so important. I don’t know if Marie Lu’s editor or publisher ever asked a fellow Austrian to proof read this but I’m sure if any of them did they would have pointed this out to them. Well, at least I would have. ;-)

”He made Woferl play so late into the night that my brother could not concentrate anymore, then slapped Woferl’s hands when he saw my brother’s eyes drooping at the clavier.”

Anyway! This out of the way we can go back to focusing on the story instead. I really loved how Marie Lu turned this into a magical tale and added so much depth to it. I mean for one we have a mysterious land named “The Kingdom of Back” in which a faerie princeling desperately tries to reclaim his throne. Hyacinth was such an interesting character because he represented so many different things. On the one hand there is his function as Nannerl’s patron and confidant and on the other hand he is a person Nannerl doesn’t really trust and is weary of. I just loved how Hyacinth had the role of conveying Nannerl’s deepest feelings and thoughts. Without Nannerl’s jealousy and resentment the faerie princeling wouldn’t have been more than a passing thought, but the more the young girl gives into her feelings the stronger he becomes. It shows in the way the Kingdom is growing and thriving and I really have to give kudos to Marie Lu for this amazing allegory. The more Nannerl resents her brother, the stronger Hyacinth becomes and once she realizes what he’s really up to its almost too late.

”He tells you to play, so you play. He tells you to curtsy, so you curtsy. He tells you what you are meant to do and what you are meant not to do, so you do and you do not do. He tells you not to be angry, so you smile, you turn your eyes down, you are quiet and do exactly as he says in the hopes that this is what he wants, and then one night you realize that you have given him so much of yourself that you are nothing but the curtsy and the smile and the quiet. That you are nothing.”

The thing is, nothing of it was ever Wolferl’s fault and I’m sure if their father wouldn’t have been so strict she would have never even been tempted to make that Faustian bargain with Hyacinth. What Nannerl truly wants is to be recognized for her talent and to be appreciated, but because she was a girl her father didn’t even find it necessary to give her the means to develop and evolve. While her brother gets the best tutoring and tools to improve and work on his music Nannerl has to fight for every little scrap. It was so unfair to see their different treatment but unfortunately it was a pretty realistic representation of the difference between women and men at that time. While men had all the opportunities and the world was open to them, women were only seen as future wives and mothers. Their only value in how well you were able to marry them off. Nannerl is fighting against that tooth and nail and almost breaking under the pressure.

”You and I are one, Nannerl. I am your friend. Firends help each other, and dislike seeing each other in distress. I can help you become what you want to be, help you heal, or I can let you die tonight, mourned only by your father and mother and brother. But I can only be your guardian if you let me help you. Now, what is it you want?”

Torn between what she wants for herself and what is best for her brother she is forced to make a decision and it’s definitely the hardest one she ever had to make. I just love how Marie Lu turned “The Kingdom of Back” into an extension of Nannerl’s inner turmoil, how Hyacinth represented her envy, anger and jealousy and how she’s ultimately forced to confront herself. Because in the end all that matters is if you’re able to live with the decisions you make and if you got there by yourself or if other’s forced your hand. The kingdom itself is such a beautiful place, all the potential Nannerl holds showing in every character and the unique music they emit. This was something I really loved about the book. Every single person Nannerl encounters in the kingdom has their own melody and voice and the descriptions were so lovely.

”Her touch, colder than the wind of a winter night, froze me in place. I wanted to cry out. Instead I focused myself staring at her, overwhelmed by the sound of music that came from deep in her throat. The melody flowed through her body and into my hand, wrapping itself around my skin, refusing to let go. I closed my eyes, unable to tear myself away from her.”

I swear sometimes to read this felt like the combination of a fever dream and a fairy tale. The scenes in the kingdom were an integral part of the story, yet at the same time they were few and far between. The biggest part of the narration was still playing in the real world and showed the struggle of the Mozart family while they tried to make a living of their talents. Still, the moments between Nannerl and her father always had an urgency to them and even though the story was a rather slow one you could always feel the tension in the air. Honestly, the injustice of Nannerl’s situation really got to me and it was kind of sad that the further the story progressed the harder it became for her to catch a break. Whenever she went to the Kingdom it felt like a fever dream and I didn’t know if I wanted to continue to dream on or would have rather preferred to wake up instead.

”And what if something were to happen to me? I can do everything that he can!” I had started to shout my words now. I no longer cared. “I can take care of our family! There are those in the audience who love me too, and who I can please. We are the same, Papa! Why do you not take me with you?” Papa slapped me. I gasped, suddenly dizzy, and touched my cheek with my hand.


The story might have been slow in general but it was relentless in its urgency and eventually turned into a crescendo. I don’t know if I liked the ending but I know that despite the magical nature of the story its end actually turned out to be realistic and comprehensible. Nannerl and Wolferl got older and grew up and this was reflected in the outcome of the story. Was it a good ending? I honestly don’t know, but I suppose it was at least one I could live with. So there’s that.
All told I really enjoyed “The Kingdom of Back” and ended up liking Marie Lu’s take on Mozart’s tale. If you love music, magic and fairy tales this might actually turn out to be a good pick for you. ;-)


So there were a couple of historical facts that weren’t exactly accurate but oh well, it’s historical fiction and Marie Lu only lent the characters and wove a story around them. XD
Other than that I really enjoyed the story. It felt like reading a fever dream fairy tale and most of the time I didn’t know if I wanted to dream on or wake up. *lol*

Full RTC soon! This is going to be hard to put into words.


A Mozart historical fiction retelling with the focus on Nannerl?!
Colour me intrigued! Intrigued enough to pick this up and to give it a try.
So far I loved every single one of Marie Lu’s books so fingers crossed it will be the same here. As someone from Austria who learned about Mozart from a very young age this is going to be interesting. I can’t wait to see Marie’s take on this story. =)

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Profile Image for Jananie (thisstoryaintover).
290 reviews13.5k followers
January 26, 2020
THIS WAS ENCHANTING. Hands down one of my favourite books EVER. Haunting, lyrical, and beautifully written. This might even be my favourite Marie Lu book ever. It's definitely more literary than her other books and also one that could appeal to any age, young or old. Highly recommend!!
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
928 reviews799 followers
March 16, 2021
Two siblings. Two brilliant talents. But only one Mozart.

Concept: ★★★★★
Magical elements: ★★★
Pacing: ★★ 1/2
Emotional resonance: ★★★★

Everyone knows of Mozart. The brother, that is. How many of us know the history of Mozart's talented older sister, Nannerl?

The Kingdom of Back is a soft, fantastical portrait of the historical lives of Nannerl and Amadeus during their childhood in Austria. Following Nannerl, it imagines the childhood of a girl—one given amazing musical talents, and yet born during a time when women were not given agency over their creativity, their name, or their destiny.

Nannerl's childhood tours with her younger brother, "the" Mozart, are the main backbone of this story. But as this is a fantasy take, we're taken on a journey that deviates from the original: Welcome to the Kingdom of Back, where everything is backwards, blue, and desperately empty save for a mystical princeling.

This mystical princeling seems to know Nannerl's deepest wish: to be remembered. He promises her that he can make it happen. She just needs to accomplish some tasks first.

But as the game gets darker and her younger brother seems to flounder, Nannerl begins to wonder what the princeling deems a proper cost.

What would you do to be remembered?

What I liked:
I loved the concept. Focusing on music? Fantastic. Focusing on the female Mozart? Brilliant. I loved highlighting Nannerl, especially as we were giving voice to a woman who has been largely forgotten by history. The strength in this novel lies in its poignant and heartbreaking focus on what it meant to be a girl in that time period, and the terrible boundaries and lost hope that lay at the end of every story.

What I didn't like:
Without getting into spoiler territory, I felt the magical elements were weak. I was really excited to read about the faerie-goblin, music-vibe, fantastical other world, and found myself really disappointed at the lack of time we spent there. I also found the events that occurred in the Kingdom of Back were, personally, unsatisfying. Spoilers: . I think in part because of these issues, I had a hard time with the novel's pacing. It took too long for us to reach interesting plot points, and not enough occurred chapter to chapter to keep me engaged. I kept fighting the urge to put this down.

However, despite what sounds like a lukewarm response, I do think this is a memorable historical fiction novel—with a dose of the fantastic—and is worth reading for anyone interested in the blurb. I hope others enjoy it more than I did!

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Profile Image for Maryam Rz..
220 reviews2,650 followers
Want to read
July 1, 2019
To be remembered in this world, she created another.

Thou who hath pranced amidst this land,
Thou who hath walked upon thy hand,
And thou who hath danced on the river's strand...

Behold my quietus, my quiet stand!
Behold these tears and please withstand,
My wailing and waning and weening, and,
Behold my death—of thee, I demand!

Oh lo and behold my life so damned,
And watch my dawning demise, so grand;
Then seize my murderer, oh that I command—
Bury and bind the book in this sand,
Within my grave, this during brand...
And it shall be no longer bland.

—from “The Infatuated Ineffable Ramblings of Mary the Merry
(NOTE: )

With eyes that devour and envy every hand holding a musical instrument, and drown in every detail of the makings of one, I hope...
With lips that speak the language of music better than their mother tongue, spending each and every second building new rhythms on the air, I whisper...
With fingers that have never had the chance to touch a piano's keys, yet spend every waking moment desperate for a dream where they get to play its strings, I write...
This is the gift I never knew I wanted 💙

(NOTE: )

A historical and fantastical tale of music, siblings, dreams, and Mozart.

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.
Profile Image for ✨ Helena ✨.
369 reviews978 followers
June 14, 2020
I received this complimentary ARC from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.

"I wrote this book for the Nannerls of today and tomorrow, in the hopes that when they are ready to share their brilliance of the world, the world will be ready to give them the attention and honour that they deserve."

I love the message behind this book, but I didn't love the book itself. I enjoyed the side quests that took place in the Kingdom of Back most of all, but I do think that the inclusion of the fantasy aspects of the book took away from the story. In my opinion, it should've remained a historical novel, rather than making it magical realism.

I do empathise with Nannerl's story though, and the stories of all the other women in history whose achievements have been overlooked because the world of men weren't ready to acknowledge their genius and success. I just wish it had been executed better here. Marie Lu's lyrical writing style was on point as always, but some of the elements just didn't work in this book.

I can't wait to read her next release, Skyhunter, though! :D
Profile Image for Natalie Monroe.
592 reviews3,539 followers
June 23, 2020
3.75 stars

“I am the sister, the other Mozart. And her story is mine.”

The Kingdom of Back is different from anything Lu has written in the past, which is likely why I enjoyed it so much. It's a breath of fresh air. This standalone novel's much quieter, devoid of the typical action scenes found in the Legend series, The Young Elites trilogy, and the Warcross duology. It is nonetheless powerful, a tragically accurate portrayal of a gifted musician barred from fame because of her gender.

“Help me be worthy. Worthy of praise, of being loved and remembered. Worthy of attention when I bared my heart at the clavier. Worthy enough for my music to linger long after I was gone. Worthy of my father. Make them remember me.”

In an old interview, Lu mentioned she loves writing sibling relationships because she's an only child and is hence fascinated with the dynamic. Nearly all her works have important sibling relationships: June and Metias from Legend, Day and Eden from Rebel, Adelina and Violet from the Young Elites. The Kingdom of Back has that in common if little else. The relationship between Nannerl and Wolfgang is gorgeously written and, in my opinion, far more sophisticated than those in her previous works. They actually read like real siblings because they fight over little things but are still fiercely loyal to each other.

The biggest wedge between them, of course, is music. Nannerl knows her little brother isn't to blame, but she can't help occasionally resenting his privilege. He's free to compose music; she's not. Her father, whose approval she desperately wants, values Wolfgang more too simply because he's a boy. Also haunting Nannerl is the issue of age. Once she turns eighteen, she won't be lauded as a child prodigy anymore. She'll have to give up her clavier for wifehood.

The fantasy elements provide no impact on the overall plot, but maybe Lu added them to spice up an otherwise quiet historical novel? The Kingdom of Back was an actual thing the Mozart siblings came up with, as you'll see in the author's note. Either way, I'm neutral on them. I do enjoy how Lu seamlessly weaves the fantasy aspects with the actual plot, like Nannerl's desperate desire to be remembered in history and Wolfgang's constant illnesses.

The ending is perfection and true to the time period. Definitely recommended.
Profile Image for Zoë ☆.
897 reviews180 followers
March 12, 2020
THIS WAS FREAKING AMAZING, I’m crying right now it was so beautiful 😩😢💗
Go read this!!
The Kingdom of Back is SUCH a beautiful and enchanting read! I LOVED the magical world so much, and the combination with historical fiction made it an amazing and PERFECT read for me! The best thing about this book though was easily the writing. It was so enchanting and wonderful to read. Whenever I picked up the book, I was completely sucked into the world!

Thinking back on it (I finished it almost a week ago), I still don't really have the words to describe how amazing this was!! I just loved it so much and I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone to be honest! The fact that it's a historical fiction (mostly) combined with a magical world I feel like makes it more approachable to people who don't generally read fantasy maybe?

Another important and impressive aspect of this book was definitely that we actually discovered the story of Nannerl! She is Wolfgang Mozart's sister and inspiration: she was every way the talented composer and piano player that he was. AND WE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT! Especially the author's note made it even more special.. so if you read the book, definitely do not skip it! It made me cry again 😂😭💕
Thank you so much Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book along with amazing goodies!! 😭
Profile Image for Yasmine.
137 reviews83 followers
November 8, 2020
Read for the Bratz Readathon!
Challenge: Beauty and Brains

I am going to tell you a story you already know. But listen carefully, because within it is one you have never heard before.

The writing for this book is nothing short of lyrical.

It’s something that will warm you, even with it’s cool shades of blue. The writing will captivate you in a way no other book could. Marie Lu was able to get across and accomplish everything that I had expected from this book and so, so much more.

It’s a crescendo, gradually increasing in beauty as you go on. A wonderful tale with magical realism, an entirely new world created for one to explore. The magical elements begin taking hold slowly, just barely. It’s as if waking up from the sweetest dream of the wonderful Kingdom of Back.

It’s words soft as flower petals caressing you ever so gently. A whisper of what’s to come. Something wonderful you cannot simply pinpoint. A world made entirely of imagination and witty wordings, of intrigue and longing.

Do you know when you’re outside, and the sun happens to catch the light on your lashes, and suddenly everything is tinged in a golden ethereal glow? That is precisely how I would describe this book.

Nannerl and Wolferl share hushed stories when nobody is listening, lest it be deemed immature and Devilish behavior. The stories Nannerl told were of far away lands and places never heard of. Riveting and catching the attention of her younger brother, to Nannerl’s great delight.

This book is slow moving and meticulously detailed.

Papa favors Woferl, and Nannerl is constantly looking for validation. Her father belittles her for every mistake, every wrong note player. She simply wants him to acknowledge her playing, she wants him to be proud of her. And it’s heartbreaking to watch as her father ignores her talent, her work, and her music. At first Nannerl was Papa’s prodigy, but she was quickly outdone by her younger brother.

This causes multiple shifts in their relationship, at first loving brother and sister, to jealousy filled thoughts and accusations. Then back again. It’s a whirlwind for those two, but when they need it the most, they’re always there for each other, as all siblings have a way of doing.

The magical world is filled with mischief and deceit. If nothing else, Nannerl falls into the trap. It could cost her everything, even her wish, to be remembered. And even worse, her mistakes could cost her brothers life.

I continuously glanced around, looking for flitting shadows, Hyacinth’s sharp smile, a cool gust of air.

It is a whirlwind, yes, slowly uncurling for those patient enough to read it. Though slow, it tells a magnificent story in the most beautiful writing.

4 stars ✨

I am the sister. The other Mozart. And her story is mine.
Profile Image for Althea ☾.
623 reviews1,952 followers
December 3, 2020
My fingers are literally itching to get my violin and search my folders for a Mozart piece to practice. Which probably won't be hard to find.

“What you offer me… I have already achieved.”

This is a perfectly balanced book with magical and realistic elements that made me both want to float away to the Kingdom of Back but also reminded me just how important giving equal opportunity to everyone, no matter their gender, race, etc. is.

It puts a magical twist on real events in history that we probably never knew even happened.

— overall thoughts: 4.5—
*All of my reviews are as spoiler-free as possible unless stated otherwise*

If you are going to read this for anything let it be for Nannerl and Wolfgang's brother-sister relationship. The way they care for each other and the way they're written I just... my heart. is. full. and. soft. As a musician myself who grew up on Mozart this was already a book dear to me even before I started reading. Marie Lu's take on historical fiction honestly did not feel like the intimidating kind that is usually found in this genre with all the heavy topics. It's accessible and as usual, easy to digest and comprehend but with every scene still packing so much substance and layers.

It was obvious that this book was written by a musician and someone familiar with Mozart... and it translated so well to the writing and world building. There is so much passion in the pages and I appreciated it so much

Every character felt like they had so many layers. I never knew what to think of hyacinth… which I think was the point but he was just such a well written character. Honestly, all of them are. Marie Lu's strong suit is creating characters that are evidently flawed but still easy to relate to. They are all flushed out and it's easy to get into the groove of their dynamics. Especially as a whole family.

“Speak for the ones who will come after you.”

It talks about how we choose to see what we want to see and the only way to change that is by facing the reasons why that's so. Nannerl is a very strong female character that has been dealt with.. unfair.. cards. And seeing her come to terms with her life was both heartbreaking and... hopeful. The plot was predictable to me to a certain degree but at time, I just don't care. I have to say that it was an aspect that did pull me out of what was going on at time. There was a sort of detachment when the plot concerned characters other than the Mozart family. Everything else about this book made me fall in love. All my feelings are here and present, and with the brilliant execution of themes... what else can I say?

Literally the master of writing satisfying and tear jerker endings, and as someone who believes that endings make or break a book, it’s a solid reason to pick up her books and...


Marie Lu's signature is all over this book with the adventure, intrigue, and emotional moments but make it a little more light and whimsical. If you are into any of those things I think you'll enjoy this (bonus points if you are into Mozart).

“I wrote this for the Nunnrel’s of today and tomorrow. In the hopes that when they are ready to share their brilliance with the world, the world is ready to give them the attention and honor they deserve.”

PLOT: ★★★★☆
THEMES: ★★★★★
PACING: ★★★★☆


I just saw that this was about Mozart and his sister, and immediately knew that I had to read it. As a classical musician, I felt it would have been a betrayal if I didn't :3
Profile Image for Elle.
587 reviews1,315 followers
March 4, 2020
An elegantly beautiful story about a sister and brother told through the lenses of history and fantasy, I was unexpectedly touched by this offering from Marie Lu. This is a departure for the YA Sci-fi/Fantasy writer, and despite her Legend series being published first, I was surprised to learn she’d written The Kingdom of Back prior to it.

The tone of this reminds me of Pan's Labyrinth, but centered around the childhoods of Maria Anna and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, known to one another as Nannerl and Woferl, respectively. In order to escape the wretched unfairness of being the child breadwinners of their family and the clear & constant favoring of Woferl by their father, Nannerl and her brother either discover or invent the mystical Kingdom of Back, where they can abandon their earthly troubles for new ones. Taking place in Europe in the mid-1760s, so before the United States was even a country, the gender roles are devestatingly restrictive. Passages like this are utterly heartbreaking, but somehow still resonate today:

“He tells you to play, so you play. He tells you to curtsy, so you curtsy. He tells you what you are meant to do and what you are meant not to do, so you do and you do not do. He tells you not to be angry, so you smile, you turn your eyes down, you are quiet and do exactly as he says in the hopes that this is what he wants, and then one night you realize that you have given him so much of yourself that you are nothing but the curtsy and the smile and the quiet. That you are nothing.”

As an older sister of two brothers, the youngest also being nearly five years my junior, I really felt for Nannerl immensely. The times where she would be blamed for not controlling her brother if he acted out or would be expected to care for him in lieu of the his two parents, whilst being a child herself, were so relatable that I almost didn’t believe that Lu was an only child. The love Nannerl has for her little brother despite how her family or the world treats them is steadfast and everlasting, no matter how frustrated she may be with him at the time.

I feel lucky that I got to read this book several months before publication, and I’m glad that Marie Lu was finally able to publish it. I’d really love if she wrote even more standalones. I’m sure publishers like to put out sweeping series with loyal followings, but it would have been a shame if we never got to enjoy this sparkling, lyrical novel. If you’re an adult who doesn’t usually read YA, I’d still recommend picking this one up. It clocks in as Historical Fantasy before any other genre, and despite focusing on two adolescent characters, has lessons and reflections on loving your sibling that stretch far beyond whatever age you currently are.

*Thanks to Penguin Teen & BookishFirst for an advance copy!
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