An Enchanting and Charming World

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The Kingdom of Back is about Nannerl, a prodigal child musician who was raised to strive for immortality through her sheer talent for music. Her brother is the one and only Wolfgang Mozart. Wofferl, as the family calls him, outshines Nannerl in every way: he is deemed more talented, and him being such a young child makes him even more impressive. Nannerl is also faced with the daunting challenge that is her station in life: she is an ambitious girl in 18th century Europe, and the lack of rights women have are major barriers for her to achieve her dream of becoming a composer and being heard.

So what does Nannerl do? She escapes to the Kingdom of Back, a fantasy world that she and Wofferl created. It’s a magical place, and its enchanting guardian has promised to grant Nannerl’s wish if she helps him…

The Kingdom of Back’s strongest points are in Nannerl, who is a well-developed character with goals, flaws, and an endearing quiet strength, and also in the alluring imaginary world of the Mozart children. Both of these aspects are huge parts of the book, so it was a strong story, and an enjoyable read overall. Its weaker points were in the real world – where good chunks of the story take place. Maybe the blandness of the real world was just to further drive the point home that escapism into the Kingdom of Back is the better option?

So let’s talk more about those good points I mentioned earlier! Nannerl is an endearing protagonist since she’s just so relatable. She’s more talented than I’ll ever be, but hey, we’re both petty and jealous – I can relate with her where it counts. A big part of her character is about her relationships with her family. These relationships are clearly established at the beginning and plenty of Nannerl’s actions are affected by and in turn affect her familial relationships. I love me a heroine who has firm roots but goes through great development.

The other thing I want to rave about is the atmosphere of the Kingdom of Back (the place, not the book title). Marie Lu includes whimsical details throughout that are so charming and so captivating. The beautiful cover really suited the atmosphere of the world. I was reminded of Narnia or Pan’s Labyrinth because of the fairy tale vibes yet sinister undertones in the setting. Then you’ve got the guardian of the world, and he’s definitely reminiscent of Peter Pan. That’s all I’m going to say about him 😉

Now, The Kingdom of Back isn’t perfect. As much as I loved the atmosphere and prose for the magical world, the real world AKA 18th century Europe was considerably less captivating. The story has Nannerl moving between the real world and the Kingdom of Back multiple times. While the Kingdom was well developed, it was the real world that lacked in atmosphere and weight: I didn’t get a good sense of time’s passage in the real world, and different cities would often blur together. Also, 18th century family dynamics and women’s rights were very different than today and it was frustrating at times to read how Nannerl doesn’t question some things like why women can’t compose, and why her father favours her brother (it’s probably accurate, but could still be a turnoff for some).

This beautiful edition of The Kingdom of Back was part of Owl Crate’s April box.
Pick up The Kingdom of Back if you’re looking for a fairly quick fantasy book with a world reminiscent of Neverland and fairy tales (including a guardian with similar vibes to Peter Pan). There isn’t a lot of romance in this! Still, it’s a very character-driven story, so relationships are still the main focus of the story.