We have all heard fairy tales, popularized by Disney about princesses and animal sidekicks. Then there are faery tales which are often much darker, more akin to the fairy tales told by the Brothers Grimm.
Faery tales tend to fall into one of two camps. There is the benevolent and better than humans in every way camp led by JRR Tolkien. The other camp is the beautiful but malevolent and best to be avoided camp. This camp is led by folk tales of Europe. It can be seen in tales like that of the Erlkoenig (the Elf King). I will not say which one this concerns, as I do not want to spoil the surprise for you, dear Reader.
Best-selling author Marie Lu has brought faery tales, historical fiction, coming of age, and the journey of finding your truest self into a single tale, The Kingdom of Back. The Kingdom of Back is set in Europe in the tumultuous decades before the American and French Revolutions. The story is told through the viewpoint of Maria Anna Mozart, the elder sister of better-known Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which is intriguing in itself.
While the tale is rooted in reality, as the Mozart children did invent the Kingdom of Back, there are historical inaccuracies in the tale. I realize this is historical fiction so it’s permissible; you the Reader should just not think this accurately describes events and their order.
What is glossed over although briefly hinted at in the story is the radical change creeping through Europe at the time. It was during this period of empire building and the Enlightenment that the groundwork for the later cataclysms of the World Wars were laid. People were no longer content to be treated longer like chattel by aristocracy. This was an unsettling time for Europe as the old societal structure began to change. In the American colonies, discontent was fomenting, casting long shadows of the American Revolution and French Revolution to come.
My other main criticism is the lack of detail. Maria Anna Mozart’s voice comes through clearly enough, as does a description of the Kingdom of Back, but the rest of the story focuses more on actions and less on descriptions. To be fair to author Marie Lu, this is a criticism I level at most modern authors. Nowadays we get excruciating detail or too little.
The criticisms however did not detract from the story. Overall it was a charming and enjoyable read, and I hope that you too find it to be so. The story is not too long but not a novella either. My particular favorite of the story were the antics of Wolfgang Amadeus. Wolfgang Amadeus was mischievous as an adult; his misadventures as a child are amusing.
But your sympathies are meant to lie mainly with Maria Anna, or as she was known as a child, Nannerl. Nannerl is given a fairly modern inner voice, which may or may not be accurate. Nannerl’s inner voice is strong giving us insight into her hopes, dreams, and how she viewed the world. Most of all, what it might be like to be the sibling of one such as Wolfgang Amadeus, one so incandescent all else is washed out by their light.
Until next time, dear Reader.
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