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The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Young adult

The Kingdom of Back

by Marie Lu

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Quick take

Mozart’s older sister makes the deal of a lifetime to secure the same musical opportunities as her prodigal brother.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Feminist


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_FamilyDrama

    Family drama

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Magical


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Real-life-characters

    Real-life characters


Born with a gift for music, Nannerl Mozart has just one wish—to be remembered forever. But even as she delights audiences with her masterful playing, she has little hope she'll ever become the acclaimed composer she longs to be. She is a young woman in 18th century Europe, and that means composing is forbidden to her. She will perform only until she reaches a marriageable age—her tyrannical father has made that much clear.

And as Nannerl's hope grows dimmer with each passing year, the talents of her beloved younger brother, Wolfgang, only seem to shine brighter. His brilliance begins to eclipse her own, until one day a mysterious stranger from a magical land appears with an irresistible offer. He has the power to make her wish come true—but his help may cost her everything.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of The Kingdom of Back.
The Kingdom of Back

I am going to tell you a story you already know. But listen carefully, because within it is one you have never heard before.

The story you know is about a boy named Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

You recognize his name. Even if you do not, you know him well, because you have heard his music all your life.

He was here and then gone, a brief, brilliant shard of life, a flash of stardust that ignited the sky. I knew his mind better than anyone else, understood its every winding path and quiet corner as deeply as my own. I remember everything about the way his tiny hand fit into mine, the sweep of his long lashes against his baby cheeks, the expression he would turn on me in the darkness of our shared bedchamber, his wide, fragile eyes glittering, always dreaming of some faraway place. I will tell you how the space in his small chest held so much joy and beauty that, if he wasn’t careful, it might all spill out into the streets, drenching the world in too much light. He knew this, and so he held back, made rigid symmetry of the unimaginable so that the world could understand it, and for that his music became all the more sublime.

The story you have never heard is about the sister who composed beside him. In a way, you know her too, for you have also heard her music all your life. She is not the stardust but the steady wick, the one who burns low and quiet. You do not see her by the way she lights up the sky but by the way she steadies herself against the darkness, alone, at night, beside a window while the world sleeps around her. She writes when others do not see. By morning, none would know that her flame had ever been there. Her music is the ghost in the air. You know it because it reminds you of something you cannot quite grasp. You wonder where you have heard it before.

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Why I love it

I was beyond excited when I heard that Marie Lu would be tackling historical fiction—based on the Mozart family, no less—in her newest book, The Kingdom of Back. As a major band geek, I loved getting to read about Mozart’s lesser-known, but equally talented, sister and the lush fantasy world she finds herself drawn into.

Everyone knows the name Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, but his older sister Nannerl, a talented performer and genius composer, wants to be remembered, too. A daunting task made near impossible by an unsupportive father and a society that doesn’t recognize women composers. When a strange figure from a mythical land offers to make her wish come true, Nannerl has to learn who she can trust and what she’s willing to give up to be remembered.

As with Lu’s other novels, The Kingdom of Back has that something special that keeps me, and many others, coming back for more. Longtime fans will love seeing Lu stretch her creative muscles in a totally new setting, and new readers will enjoy an excellently crafted, utterly entrancing book on one of history’s forgotten figures.

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Member ratings (568)

  • Daniela R.

    Flushing, NY

    I’ve always been a fan of Marie Lu, and once again she does not disapoint. This was so beautifuly written I couldn’t help but cry by the end. An excellent short read that sit with you for a long time.

  • Piper M.

    Denver, CO

    Heart-wrenching, impactful, real and relatable and brilliant. The Kingdom of Back is now one of my top 5 books, I love it so much. I don’t like magical realism all that much, but I did love this book.

  • Harper J.

    Nashville, TN

    When I choose this book, I had no real idea of what I was about to read, but I loved it after all. The mix of the magical and real worlds and amazing characters keept me enjoying it to the very end.

  • Amanda W.

    Puyallup, WA

    I loved getting to know Nannerl and how talented she was despite her more famous younger brother. This is magical, dreamy, beautiful, but also feminist & powerful. YA but easily works for adults too.

  • Brit H.

    Greenwood, IN

    Great book! Loved how Marie Lu took parts of history and developed the grey areas into a wonderful novel! It made me wonder could this have been true?! I loved the characterization and the tension!

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