The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Nannerl Mozart’s greatest dream is to be remembered for her musical talents, but when it becomes clear that her younger brother, Wolfgang, is also quite talented, thus there is no need for her, she makes a wish to a prince from another world.

Fantasy/Historical, 313 pages, published in 2020

Nannerl Mozart’s greatest dream is to be remembered for her musical talents, but when it becomes clear that her younger brother, Wolfgang, is also quite talented, thus there is no need for her, she makes a wish to a prince from another world.

Spoiler Free Review:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve had mixed thoughts on Marie Lu’s works in the past, but the premise (and the cover, if I’m being honest) of this book really had me interested.

The magic in this book is much more whimsical than I was expecting and definitely leans towards magical realism. I think it is up to the reader to decide how they interpret the fantasy elements in this book because I can see how it could be magical realism, but I can also see how it could have been real. Either way, I liked this element of the story a lot, and I also enjoyed how, at times, you couldn’t tell what was real and what was fantasy.

Throughout this story, Nannerl grows from a talented young girl to a still talented young woman. Because of how society limited women’s choices in the 1700’s, there is an expiration date to her ability to play music constantly looming over her. She even had to compose in secret because it was unheard of for a woman to be composing at this time.

I loved Nannerl’s complicated relationship with Wolfgang. She loves her brother dearly and goes through so much in order to protect him, but she also resents him because he is allowed to do what she isn’t purely based on gender. They perform together, but he is always the star, even if he thinks she’s the one is who is more talented. I enjoyed watching their growth as siblings throughout the book.

I still don’t know how I feel about this book. It doesn’t rewrite history, so it left me feeling kind of sad and bittersweet. If Nannerl had been allowed to compose and play like her brother, would we be referring her when we mention Mozart? Overall though, I appreciated the sibling bond, as well as learning a bit about history!

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The Young Elites by Marie Lu

YA Fantasy, 355 pages, published in 2014

Synopsis: A decade ago, a fever swept the land killing adults and leaving children scarred and changed. Adelina is one of these malfetto, people looked down upon and discriminated against due to how the fever changed her. After escaping her cruel father, she discovers that she is one of the Young Elites, a malfetto who has powers because of the fever. She stumbles upon the Dagger Society, a group of Young Elites working to protect malfettos and change the prejudice against them.

Non-Spoiler Review:

It was my goal to read all of Marie Lu’s books because I really enjoyed the Warcross duology, but after reading and not loving the first book in the Legend trilogy, I was a little skeptical of her other series. For the most part, I did enjoy The Young Elites!

This book definitely went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. I had thought that it would be a typical early 2010’s young adult fantasy/dystopian book. I know that is pretty specific, but there were just so many books coming out at that time that had this kind of vibe. It definitely did have some elements found in similar books, but the thing that helps it stand out is the main character’s gray morality. I don’t personally think she is a villain, but she struggles between doing what is right and letting her powers overcome her.

I didn’t really form attachments to any of the characters, but I did think the story was interesting enough to keep me going. I couldn’t really predict where the plot was going, so it kept me on my toes. I also enjoyed seeing the different powers people had. I would have liked seeing even more of them!

I thought some elements were a bit overdone, like Adelina doing everything to help her sister and the group of rebels consisting of all teenagers. Though I will say, this book has the most believable reason as to why all the rebels are teenagers: anyone who had the fever over a certain age died from it, so the only people who are malfettos are teenagers. Malfettos are looked down upon and they are the only people who can have powers, so it makes sense why they could form a reasonable rebel group.

Thinking about this book now, I did enjoy it, but I am not sure if I will continue with the series. I already own The Rose Society (found it used for like a dollar), but this book feels a dime a dozen honestly. My overall “meh” feelings for this book come back to my young adult book burnout. If I had read this book maybe a year ago, I definitely think I would have enjoyed it more.