I truly enjoyed Marie Lu’s reimagining of the fairy tales in her Lunar Chronicles series, so when I saw that she was writing a Mozart story from the perspective of his sister I was intrigued. History never treats women artists as well as their male counterparts, and historians wonder if Nannerl was the more talented Mozart.
I take no pleasure in saying that this book is a failure of world building and character development. I wanted to care about what was going on, but it was all so…I’m not sure the best word to describe it…maybe monotone? Nannerl imagines the Kingdom of Back, which is a backwards version of her real world. There is a princeling who is trying to win his throne back and he offers her a chance to compose in a special notebook if she’ll help him regain his kingdom.
The Kingdom was supposed to be magical and mysterious but it was so obviously her imagination that it was hard to believe that it was a parallel universe, which I think was the intention? And where were the stakes? There’s no impending marriage for her to escape, no other duties, even her father encourages her playing (not composing though) so that she and her younger brother can earn money and patronage for the family. She wants to compose, her own desire is the only driving force and maybe this will lose me my feminist pin but that wasn’t enough to keep me reading. I must compose or die! isn’t a compelling story mover.
Really Nannerl’s drive is “I want to never be forgotten” but even that is…well we’re all going to be forgotten and that’s something that you learn as you grow and accepting it is part of the maturing process. Having already accepted this, it was next to impossible to feel for a teenager from another era altogether who imagines another realm that helps her while she is trying to become famous. The entire story just felt shallow and selfish, which I’m usually okay with but here it was just boring.
I put it down about halfway through. I’d rather go pick up Lu’s other, better works. If you like fantasy, go find something else. I’d skip this one unless you can get it at your local library, then why not. See if it’s for you. But don’t put your money out on it.