beautiful writing

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decimal rating: 3.72 stars

the kingdom of back is a historical retelling of the life of nannerl mozart, the unknown sister of her more famous younger brother. nannerl is a young woman with a penchant and talent for music, and wishes to be a composer. however, in eighteenth century europe, women are forbidden to compose. at the same time, her beloved younger brother begins to showcase immense talent that overshadows her own.

eclipsed in his shadows, nannerl is afraid of disappearing and wishes for her own name to be the one renowned and remembered centuries later. she discovers that her music creates a door to an alternate world, "the kingdom of back." there, she meets hyacinth, a mysterious prince who offers to grant her wishes. nannerl strikes a deal with hyacinth, but not without a grave cost.

i had high expectations for kingdom of back because i loved the legend trilogy so much!! i thought that the book was wonderfully written, but it didn't really meet my expectations fully. then again, it is pretty hard for any book to be as legendary as legend.

i enjoyed reading the kingdom of back and i thought it was interesting to have a glimpse into the life of the mozart family, especially mozart's largely unknown older sister. nannerl mozart is an intriguing protagonist and i love how her character growth and arc over the course of the book. in addition, i really appreciate how marie lu writes siblings. first, day and edan from legend, and now nannerl and woferl mozart. she captures that unbreakable bond, like a built-in best friend from birth you'd do anything for.

some of the other things that i really liked about the kingdom of back was the worldbuilding and the elegant writing style. lu's writing style really captures the feeling of music and nannerl's voice as well as the otherworldly feel of the kingdom of back. the worldbuilding of the fantastical elements is also wonderfully executed, and it really feels like the kingdom of back is expansive and believable. also the regular world is also wonderfully showcased too as the mozart family tours europe, and there is a good amount of historical details, like the reference to marie antoinette, scattered through the narration that makes the time period come to life.

my main two criticisms of the book are that the ending felt a bit rushed, and the entire plot was predictable. that being said, i don't think that the predictability was that hindering of the experience at all. although i knew what nannerl was going to choose or the outcome was going to be, i think part of it is just that historical fiction is generally easier to predict. and also, the writing was really so amazing that i didn't care too much the predictability. about the rushed ending, i would say that it was okay, but could have been fleshed out more, with definitely an extra chapter centered around the sibling dynamic.

also i did not like how the epilogue was written in present tense while the rest of the book was written in past. i think that switch-up really pulled me out of the book for some reason which was not the best feeling. other than those things, the kingdom of back was fantastic, and i would recommend this book, especially to the music lovers out there!!