BOOK REVIEW: THE KINGDOM OF BACK by Marie Lu

I think, if you’ve ever 1) seen my twitter, 2) met me or 3) read any of my old blog posts, you know that 99% of what I talk about is Marie Lu books and why you should read them. Warcross is my favourite book in the entire world (please read it and talk to me about it!!), and the Legend series is just as impressive. I have never read anything by Marie Lu that I didn’t love and I own every single book she’s ever published so- I’m kind of a major fangirl.

That being said, I was very excited about The Kingdom of Back. I grew up playing piano and this book is about Nannerl Mozart so that was a major plus. Then there’s the fact that it’s a historical fantasy (featuring all manner of beautiful and magical things), and the cover is absolutely stunning.

So I read the entire book today, and I’m now going to review it. This will definitely be biased, but I can assure you that this book deserves all. the. hype. Anyway-

The Kingdom of Back is the untold story of Nannerl Mozart, with a fantastical twist. We begin by learning that Nannerl is a young musical prodigy, playing instruments from a young age and talented enough to wow all of Austria. She’s an ambitious and highly talented child, with dreams of being remembered for her talents and her music. It isn’t until her younger brother, Woferl, reveals his musical talent that she even gets noticed, however. And very quickly, Nannerl gets overshadowed by her younger brother’s extraordinary musical ability.

When a magical boy named Hyacinth appears first in her dreams, and then in her home, with an offer to make her legacy immortal, she is swiftly drawn into the beautiful and backward, magical world of Back. The place seems familiar in a fairytale kind of way, and she’s drawn in instantly by the new world’s whimsical beauty. It doesn’t take long for Nannerl to realise, however, that her dream may come at a cost, and that everything in Back may not be quite what it seems.

Nannerl, like all of Marie Lu’s protagonists, is fascinating to read about. She’s a kind, compassionate and ambitious girl who gets quickly drawn into feelings of jealousy and envy, and I was incredibly impressed by how easily I could feel her resentment and fury. I love how strong her voice remains throughout the entire novel, and how believable her emotional outbursts are. She is truly an eighteenth-century teenager with feelings and dreams that her time period simply won’t allow.

The writing in this book is absolutely stunning. The imagery drew me in within seconds, and I found myself getting sucked into the Kingdom of Back, just as Nannerl was. Similarly to Warcross, a whole world is created in this story that is so unique and unbelievable, and yet still so easy to find yourself getting lost in.

If you’re looking for a historical fiction read, this book is incredible, with just enough factual content that you can consider yourself to be learning whilst reading. And if you’re looking for a fantasy, with faeries and ogres and magical forests, this is also for you. There are so many different elements for different readers and age groups that I would recommend this book to near-enough anyone.

Basically, I love, love, love this book. It has been so long since I got so deeply absorbed in a story that I forgot my own surroundings, and I already wish that I could read this story for the first time all over again.

If you want to buy a copy, you can get it here.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

I wasn’t sure whether or not to review this because I completely gave up on being impartial about Marie Lu’s books about 6 years ago- but in the end, I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. Surprise, surprise, this is not going to be a balanced review. It is instead going to be a short summary, followed by a post full of fangirling. You’ve been warned.

Skyhunter is the story of Talin, a specially-trained soldier, or Striker, for her struggling nation, Mara. Set far, far into the future, after the collapse of the world as we know it, Mara is the only land that remains un-colonised by the ever-growing Federation, and Talin is one of many, fighting on the front lines to defend from the oncoming attack, from humans, technological human experiments and ghosts, which are monstrous beings trained to obey the Federation’s every command.

When a presumed Federation soldier wanders into their territory, all but Talin are happy to watch him suffer for their actions, but Talin feels a strange connection that forces her to risk her own life for him. When he is later paired up as her partner, she discovers that there is more to him than meets the eye, and that he may become the key to their survival and a vital look into the Federation’s plans.

There are elements of Legend and Warcross in this book that were impossible for me to ignore. Marie Lu is incredible at writing dystopia, especially dystopia surrounding technology and world domination, and this book was really no different. The characters were as instantly fascinating as any of her books and I found myself loving and hating exactly who I was supposed to. Talin is a fierce, incredibly well-developed protagonist, suffering from a lot of internal struggle about her duties, her heart and her sense of belonging, and Red is an intriguing, unique and equally powerful character to read. Jeran as well, a close friend, a fierce soldier and a very useful translator for Red and Talin, was a particular favourite character of mine. I loved seeing him develop as the story went on, after finding myself particularly invested in him from the very beginning.

This story is fast-paced, exciting and completely immersive. I got sucked in so quickly to the world of Mara and the Federation that I completely forgot the outside world, caring only about their story and their survival. The technology Marie Lu invents is believable, the world is so detailed that it’s impossible not to find yourself in the story with them, and the characters are the kind that you want to keep in your mind forever.

Rather than recommending this book, I urge you to read it. Or read Warcross, or The Young Elites, or Legend, or The Kingdom of Back (which I also *cough* reviewed, here). Marie Lu’s books are incomparable: inclusive, diverse, thrilling, immersive and incredibly original. This book has further solidified her status as my favourite author of all time, and I can only hope that, if you take my advice and read it, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Rating: 5/5 (obviously…)

MID-YEAR BOOK FREAK OUT TAG 2020

Hi! I’m supposed to be studying right now because I have two reports due at the end of the month but, instead, I’m here, freaking out about books. As usual.

I’ve seen so many booktube videos of this and I feel like I’m missing out, so I wanted to join in the fun here! And also stress myself out trying to remember everything I’ve read so far. So… the book freak out tag.

BEST BOOK YOU’VE READ SO FAR IN 2020

Spoilers for what will (probably) be my next blog post but Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo is absolutely the best book I’ve read this year. I cannot stress enough how much you need to read this book if you haven’t already.

BEST SEQUEL OF 2020

I- I haven’t actually read a single sequel in 2020, and it’s taken this tag to make me realise that. But, if this redeems me at all, I’m desperately checking the post every day for copies of Good Girl, Bad Blood and One of Us is Next so I’m assuming that one of them may be my best (and hopefully not only) sequel of the year…

NEW RELEASE YOU HAVEN’T READ YET BUT WANT TO

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban has been catching my eye for months now. It looks twisty and creepy and absolutely my type of book. I’m definitely hoping for a This Lie Will Kill You, One of Us is Lying kind of thing.

MOST ANTICIPATED RELEASE OF THE SECOND HALF OF THE YEAR

I feel like there are a million books coming out in the second half of the year that I want to read, but the first one that springs to mind is Skyhunter by Marie Lu. She could literally write an instruction manual and it would be my new favourite book so her brand new, dystopian, action thriller is absolutely my most anticipated read of 2020.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

Hart and Seoul by Kristen Burnham. I wrote a review of this book for Netgalley, but couldn’t bring myself to share it on here as I hate being overly negative. When I read this book, I was hoping for a cute, funny romance and the entire thing just kind of fell flat. I found it problematic and honestly a little difficult, so it was really disappointing after getting my hopes up so high.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

The Rules by Tracy Darnton. This book was pitched for fans of three books that I absolutely love (One of Us is Lying, We Were Liars, and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder) so, in that respect, I was really hoping I’d like it. I wasn’t entirely sure when I read the blurb, though, and I was really worried that it wasn’t going to be as exciting as I hoped. This book turned out to be one of the best books I’ve read this year and I absolutely take back those doubts- it’s fast-paced, full of twists and a definite page-turner.

FAVOURITE NEW AUTHOR

Based on my reads so far this year, an author that I’m really excited about is Hina Belitz, author of To Lahore With Love. I absolutely loved this book (except for the fact that the recipes in every chapter made me hungry for the entire story…) and would definitely give anything she comes out with a try.

NEWEST FICTIONAL CRUSH

Hmmm, this one is surprisingly difficult. Maybe Xavier from Loveboat, Taipei.

NEWEST FAVOURITE CHARACTERS

I didn’t want to repeat any books in this tag but I don’t think I could possibly say anyone except Camino and Yahaira from Clap When You Land. Read. This. Book. Please!

BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu. I’m pretty sure I cried during the book, but I know for certain that I cried during the author’s note…? I should probably be ashamed to admit that but, as mentioned re. Skyhunter, literally any book she writes could become my new favourite book. *fangirling over*

BOOK THAT MADE YOU HAPPY

Again, Again by E. Lockhart, another one of my auto-buy authors. This probably isn’t one of the happiest books I’ve ever read (in fact, it’s pretty not-happy-at-all for the most part) but it had sweet moments and it mostly just makes me happy that E. Lockhart came out with a new five-star book this year.

FAVOURITE BOOK-TO-MOVIE ADAPTATION YOU’VE SEEN THIS YEAR

Umm. I’m not sure if re-watching a movie should count, especially if I’ve seen the movie a million times, but I probably need to go with Love, Rosie for this. It’s so different from the book but the characters are completely spot on. Also, it’s adorable.

FAVOURITE REVIEW YOU’VE WRITTEN THIS YEAR

When I look back at my reviews, I’m almost never happy with them, so this is kind of tough! One that I kept pretty short and sweet was Not Your Idol vol. 1, so maybe that. Also, before this year, I never even considered reviewing a manga, so that was a fun thing to try.

MOST BEAUTIFUL BOOK YOU’VE BOUGHT OR RECEIVED THIS YEAR

I’ve got a couple of gorgeous new hardbacks this year, but the gold, Penguin Classics style ARC of Anna K is absolutely the prettiest book I got this year. I like the book’s final cover and I like the US ARCs, but when I opened up my parcel from ReadersFirst and saw this gold cover, I would not shut up about it.

BOOK YOU NEED TO READ BY THE END OF THIS YEAR

Six of Crows. And about a million others, but mostly Six. Of. Crows.

Hope you enjoyed my bookish meltdown! I’d love to hear what your favourite book of 2020 so far is, so definitely leave a comment and let me know, if you’d like to help me expand my already worryingly large TBR pile.

My Most Anticipated 2020 Releases

Happy New Year! I want to start by saying that I hope you all have a wonderful year and achieve everything you hope to achieve (in life, and in Goodreads’ Reading Challenge!). There’s so much I want to get done this year, and reading an obscene amount of books is a part of that.

That being said, there are so many new books coming out this year that have jumped straight to the top of my TBR. Without further ado, here are my most anticipated reads of 2020.

A Throne of Swans by Katherine and Elizabeth Korr

I was gifted a copy of this book a week ago and I’m itching to start it. With dark fantasy elements, shapeshifters, royalty and revenge, I’m certain that this is going to be incredible. It comes out really soon and I’m excited to see how everyone else enjoys it too.

Release date: 09/01/2020

You can get a copy here.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

I hadn’t heard of this book until I received it in a box from Book Box Club. Now, having looked into it a little, I’m convinced it’s going to be amazing.

This book is about cross-cultural romance and political activism, which are both incredibly important topics. This is definitely one of the books I’m most excited about this year.

Release date: 04/02/2020

You can get a copy here.

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

If you follow me on twitter, or have ever read any of my other blog posts, this probably won’t come as a surprise. Marie Lu is my favourite author of all time and I’ve wanted a copy of this book since before I even knew it existed.

This book is a historical fantasy about Mozart’s sister. When she becomes downhearted about being overshadowed by her prodigal brother, she finds herself being swept into a fantasy world of her own creation. I cannot wait to read this book. Music and fantasy are two things I’m passionate about, and Marie Lu’s writing could make this story truly incredible.

Release date: 03/03/2020

You can get a copy here.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

This book kind of goes without saying. As someone who got hooked on YA in 2014, The Hunger Games was a staple on my bookshelf. Although my obsession with the series has definitely worn off over time, I owe it to my former self to read and fall in love with this prequel.

Release date: 19/05/2020

You can get a copy here.

Again, Again by E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart is another author whose books I will always buy. I’ve read We Were Liars a million times and I even got to meet her at a signing a couple of years ago, which was incredible.

Her newest book is Again, Again, about a girl who saves her brother from a suicide attempt, and how she deals with the emotional trauma of this in the aftermath. I know it’s going to be emotional, potentially painful and incredibly beautiful.

Release date: 11/06/2020

You can get a copy here.

I’d love to hear what your most anticipated reads of 2020 are so let me know down below! Otherwise, I hope you have an amazing year ahead.

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