Fascinating Historical Fantasy/Fiction

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'The Kingdom of Back' is an innovative combination of historical fiction and fantasy, where we gain deeper insight into the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the existence of his sister Maria Anna, known affectionately as 'Nannerl.' The story is told through Nannerl's memories and perspective as she grows into a musical prodigy and highly gifted composer, but faces immovable societal barriers due to her gender. Lu spins a striking tale rich with detailed visual descriptions and lyrical language that draws you into two worlds -- 1700s Austria and the fantastical realm of 'The Kingdom of Back,' an imaginary world that the Mozart siblings reportedly created to pass the time during long carriage rides.

Lu weaves a variety of themes and worlds together effectively -- her descriptions of 18th century Europe are thorough and well-researched, as is the information on the Mozart family. How she describes the Kingdom of Back and its inhabitants reveal the richness of her imagination; I found myself especially taken with the upside-down trees and diverse landscape, as well as the abundance of sapphires and blue hues. The book also reveals a feminist sensibility in Nannerl's struggles, especially with her highly patriarchal father and Nannerl's willingness to quietly disobey him. I feel she is a highly relatable character, especially for young women, who have and continue to face similar double-standards in their lives.

Nannerl grapples with an internal struggle to (1) secure her musical fame by sacrificing her brother to Hyacinth, a diabolical faery from the kingdom, or (2) to protect her brother but also guarantee her name will fade into obscurity, despite her many musical accomplishments. Lu does such a strong job of building the relationship between the Mozart siblings that this struggle does not seem plausible in the least...as a reader, I never believed she would do anything other than to save her Woferl. By the same token, there are moments which should instill incredible terror in the reader's heart -- namely, when it is revealed that Hyancinth has evil, murderous intentions and comes to stalk the children in the night by their bedsides. For some reason, I did not feel this sense of terror and foreboding emanating from the characters in these sections (just exhaustion)...perhaps more could have been done to build suspense and emotions as the book drew to a close.

A very enjoyable read on the whole! Many congratulations to Lu on this accomplishment after her 12-year journey!