‘The Kingdom of Back’ – Marie Lu

In some ways I think this is a story that could have been told many times over, that of a talented young woman denied the chance to share her talent purely because of her gender.

Our focus is Nannerl, the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A girl I had never heard of, yet the author’s note suggests her talent was comparable – if not, in some ways, more than that of her lauded younger brother.

We follow Nannerl as she recounts her forays into composition, and her growing frustration at the way her talent is ignored by her father as he touts his young children around the world in an attempt to ensure the name of Mozart is never forgotten.

While the historical element of the story is interesting, I was more entranced by the fantasy elements Lu employs to examine Nannerl’s feelings about the events she lives. We watch as she conjures up The Kingdom of Back, a mystical place, and is persuaded to undertake a number of quests in order to achieve her heart’s desire.

This was, evidently, a story that had captivated Lu and one that seems to have taken her years to finish/share with the world. It will certainly introduce someone overlooked to readers, but it also offers us the opportunity to see an imaginative exploration of two very talented children and how their relationships develops over time.