book reviews

The Kingdom of Back

Marie Lu

As I sit in my bed, eating banana bread, having just finished reading The Kingdom of Back, I am finding my hand slowly reaching for the book, impatient to read it again. I believe I am still in a deep book haze and I’m not sure my mind has fully returned to reality so forgive me for any incoherent ramblings in this review!

While reading The Kingdom of Back I kept thinking to myself: this is the kind of book I would love to write — it has just the right mix of fantasy, darkness, and whimsy that I find my own writing trying to convey. This novel is a fairly quick read if you are looking for something to get into and out of in a timely manner. I’ll admit, I was a little hesitant to read this historical fantasy book as that’s not one of my “safe” genres, but I am so glad I stepped slightly out of my comfort zone because I absolutely loved it.

Knowing almost nothing about music except for what I learned in a few brief years of flute lessons in middle school, I found the talk of music and composing compelling and interesting. I have a soft spot for the stories of unknown geniuses (let me take this moment to let my musical theater alter ego take over and mention a little show called HAMILTON) and this story of Mozart’s sister was just the kind of thing I needed in my life.

The Kingdom of Back is a fairytale (like, with actual faeries!) and like most fairytales, there’s a darkness lurking in every chapter, on every page, though it’s a quite darkness. These dark parts of the story work to create tension and are often in place to compensate for the lack of actiony-action (yes, that’s a word now). Now, if you are a big fan of fights and battles and good-old-fashioned combat, don’t go looking for that in this book. It’s the internal rather than the external tension that really makes The Kingdom of Back a riveting read.

At some points in the book I just wanted to grab Nannerl and drag her to the twenty-first century where she would be free to compose and to play and where she would not have to worry about ridiculous gender-constraints and sexism. Nannerl’s father, and the society at the time in general, are the constant bane’s of Nannerl’s life which she mentions many times, but I can’t criticize that too much because I, a woman, GET IT! Nevertheless, Lu has written a very strong female character who must make difficult decisions and work things out for herself and that is another reason why I found myself enjoying this book so much.


I give The Kingdom of Back five stars. No way did I think I would love a spontaneous, I guess I’ll se what it’s about read so much, yet here we are. As a reader, you feel the characters emotions deeply and you want what they want, so you can’t help but be pulled into their world of music and faeries and yearning. The tone of this book is lulling and hypnotizing, just like the music the characters spend so many pages creating. I always find the writing of a story to be the most important factor, and Lu’s writing is beautiful and melodic, and is something any reader can enjoy!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

1 thought on “The Kingdom of Back”

  1. Love your review, so true! Nannerl as the protagonist was so endearing… I wished that she got the chance to travel into the future too! The thing I loved most about this book was the sibling relationship, it was so sweet yet infuriating at times!

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