The Kingdom of Back
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More About The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
- ISBN-13: 9781524739010
- ISBN-10: 1524739014
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
- Publish Date: March 2020
- Page Count: 336
- Reading Level: Ages 12-UP
- Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 0.98 pounds
The girls save themselves in these books
Across a range of settings both historical and fantastical, three new young adult fantasy novels place determined young women and the challenges they face front and center.
The Kingdom of Back
For Nannerl Mozart, a girl in Salzburg, Austria, in 1759, the imaginary kingdom of Back serves as a joyful reprieve from the hours she spends practicing piano with her little brother, Wolfgang. The two prodigies entertain themselves by inventing stories about Back as they tour Europe to perform for the monarchy.
In The Kingdom of Back, a historical fantasy by Marie Lu (Legend, The Young Elites, Warcross), the young Mozarts discover that Back is not only real but also a source of their musical genius. But their father decrees that musical composition is not appropriate for women and that performing is not a suitable pursuit for a young lady like Nannerl. Now only Wolfgang is allowed to compose music. Enter Back’s blue-skinned princeling, Hyacinth, who promises that Nannerl will achieve immortality for her musical talent, if she will only assist him with a quest. Alas, the princeling’s offer comes at a price (as offers of help in fairy tales often do).Throughout The Kingdom of Back, Nannerl fears she will be eclipsed by her brother, and Lu explores how much both Nannerl and Wolfgang are willing to sacrifice for the opportunity to share their genius with the world, as well as the complications of familial jealousy and betrayal. Lu wisely calibrates her contemporary perspective on her historical characters. With a light touch, she illustrates how the gifts of talented, ambitious young women like Nannerl were overlooked and unappreciated. Indeed, simply because he had the good fortune to be born a boy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was allowed to nurture his genius, while the real Nannerl was largely lost to history. In Lu’s capable hands, she’s finally resurrected, and her story and music sing.
If you think you know about mermaids because you’ve seen Disney’s The Little Mermaid, think again. The sirens in Susann Cokal’s Mermaid Moon are matriarchal, and their songs lure humans to the sea to be killed. This reenvisioning of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is no Disney movie; in fact, it offers a rather dim view of humankind from a siren’s perspective.
Mermaid Moon’s heroine is Sanna, whose father is sea-vish (a merman) but whose mother is land-ish (a human). To forestall the inevitable scandal, a witch cast a forgetting spell on nearly everyone present at Sanna’s birth. Now a young woman, Sanna has become the witch’s apprentice, but her dearest hope in life is to go on land and find her human mother.
Cokal, whose previous book, The Kingdom of Little Wounds, received a Printz Honor, spins a sprawling plot, populated by a large cast of both sea- and land-dwelling characters. (Oh, and there’s also a dragon.) Amid this fantasy world, Sanna is swept up by the problems of humankind—namely the highly religious and patriarchal society of the land-ish. When she comes ashore, the villagers regard her as a saint, and the local baroness effectively kidnaps Sanna to force her to marry her son. Sanna not only needs to find her mother, but she must also escape the confines of land-ish matrimony.
While Sanna’s quest to learn the truth is sometimes painful, it’s also, in the end, worthwhile. Mermaid Moon is an action-packed tale of parental abandonment, familial longing, treachery and dark magic, with an appealingly determined heroine.
★ Red Hood
Bisou, the protagonist of Elana K. Arnold’s fast-paced Red Hood, lives with her grandmother, Mémé. After Bisou kills a wolf that attacks her in the woods, she learns that she is one of a small group of women who become supernaturally powerful during their menstrual cycles, and she must use these gifts to protect other women from wolves—who are actually men and boys who’ve committed terrible acts of violence against women. The wolves will show no mercy, and neither must Bisou. But as she develops her gifts, Bisou begins to realize the weight of her vengeful violence may also be a burden.
Red Hood recognizes that teens can and do become the victims of violence just as easily as adults. In a culture where violent acts are reported on the news every night, stories to help teens confront and reckon with this reality are vital. Award winner Arnold (Damsel, What Girls Are Made Of) addresses her readership with knowledge and ease, even when writing about delicate subjects such as sexuality, consent or the victim-blaming that can occur after an assault.
A graphic, visceral fantasy that doesn’t pull its punches and often reads like a thriller, Red Hood depicts young women growing into their anger and developing a will to fight. “It’s not that we need more wolf hunters,” Bisou says, after she has killed her second wolf/boy. “It’s that we need men to stop becoming wolves.” I want to give this book to every teenager I know.