FICTION

The Kingdom of Back

Putnam. Mar. 2020. 336p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9781524739010.
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Gr 7 Up–Sci-fi/fantasy heavy-hitter Lu brings her talents to historical fiction in this magic-infused telling of the lives of the young Mozart siblings. Nannerl Mozart, elder sister to Wolfgang, is skilled enough at the clavier that her father believes she could gain renown as a child prodigy. Her passion for music extends beyond her exacting father’s expectations—she composes music in secret, dreaming of achieving fame despite it being a craft forbidden to women. But as she grows and Woferl’s superlative talents begin to become apparent, Nannerl realizes that it is assumed she will eventually abandon her art to become a wife and mother while Woferl pursues musical glory. Hope arrives unexpectedly one quiet afternoon when a magical world opens up to the siblings: the Kingdom of Back, a faerie realm illuminated by twin moons, populated by forests of mysterious trees whose roots stretch up into the sky, with edelweiss blanketing the ground. Hyacinth, the mysterious fae-like boy who inhabits the forests, promises that if Nannerl completes tasks for him, he will grant her deepest wishes. But as the years pass and events in the Kingdom of Back correspond unsettlingly to real-world calamities, Nannerl begins to question Hyacinth’s true motives and weigh her intense desire to be remembered against potential consequences and her fierce love for her brother. Lu strikes a perfect harmony between fantasy and historical fiction that is at once satisfyingly intricate and excitingly paced. In Nannerl she has created a passionate voice that will resonate particularly with readers learning to wield small defiances as the large weapons they can be.
VERDICT A beautifully composed historical fantasy that will enthrall readers, especially those with music in their hearts. A first purchase.

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