Review of The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Updated: Aug 2, 2020
Lu layers a fantastical alternate fairy world over a framework of the imagined point of view of Wolfgang Mozart’s sister.
Lu layers a fantastical alternate fairy world over a framework of the imagined point of view of Wolfgang Mozart’s real but largely unknown composer and musician of a sister.
Interestingly, the siblings reportedly really did construct an imagined world and called it the Kingdom of Back, entertaining themselves during weeks and months of carriage travel for performances throughout Europe by creating tales. Lu imagines her own version here.
This is a story about the magic of music, but it is also an exploration of gender roles (and tragic female limitations) in mid-eighteenth century Europe; high stakes that can buoy loyalty and threaten betrayal; things not always being what they seem; kernels of truth seen through fever dreams; and a father’s driving desperation and greed.
I’m not sure how to feel about the construct of having a young woman’s desire to gain acknowledgment for what should be rightfully hers taking the family dangerously close to destruction. Nannerl, a musical prodigy in her own right, is tempted by attaining fame equal to her brother’s likely future levels—which she also deserved but which were seemingly impossible for a woman at the time.
Nannerl enters into mystical dealmaking, which leads her and Wolfgang (and a fairy land) alarmingly toward great destruction. Seeing her ambition and talent at the root of powerful almost-disaster didn’t sit that well with me, although my twenty-first century feminist lens is surely affecting my feelings about it.
What did you think?
Have you read this, or another of Marie Lu's books?