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What to Read Next: The Kingdom of Back

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The Kingdom of Back

If you’ve felt a little lately like you’re living in a dystopia of your own, we’d like to take a look this week at Marie Lu’s recent offering The Kingdom of Back. In it, Lu merges historical fiction with fantasy as she explores the life of Nannerl MozartWolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s very real, very talented older sister. A musical talent in her own right, Nannerl is restricted by her gender; she's only allowed to perform music until she’s old enough to be married. With such a dim future ahead of her, when presented with a tempting offer to make her dreams magically come true, Nannerl must decide if musical immortality is truly worth the price.

Another fantastic outing by Marie Lu is Warcross, a fast-paced journey through a possible digital future, in which the title game is more of a lifestyle than a simple diversion. Channeling some serious Ready Player One vibes, Warcross features teenage hacker/bounty hunter Emika Chen, who makes her living by hunting down those who would illegally gamble on the game. Desperate to increase her cash flow, Emika accidentally finds herself in the middle of the Warcross Championships, leading to some newfound fame and unexpected attention that makes her whole world explode. Part science-fiction thriller, part spy novel, expect to spend a few late nights with this one as you speed to the finish.

If you liked the historical fiction/fantasy mash-up of Marie Lu, then you’ll love Libba Bray’s debut trilogy, beginning with A Great and Terrible Beauty. It’s 1895, and 16-year-old Gemma Doyle has just had her entire life uprooted. In the wake of family tragedy, Gemma is whisked away from her home in India to a boarding school in England, where she will have to cope with emotional aftershocks and prophetic visions. A fantasty-meets-Victorian-gothic, A Great and Terrible Beauty takes the reader through the worlds of secret societies and fae alike as Gemma attempts to navigate the two in addition to her own feelings of loss and isolation.

A glass coffin. A mysterious elf prince (aren’t they all?). A generations-long slumber. In Holly Black’s The Darkest Part of the ForestSiblings Hazel and Ben live in Fairfolda tourist trap of a town where humans and fae have coexisted for years … a place of magic, mischief, and underlying danger. Hazel and her brother spend their days telling stories and imagining themselves to be great knights, loyal to the beautifully strange sleeping boy with ears as sharp as knives. Until the day their elf prince disappears and Hazel must decide whether their play was merely a daydream or preparation for the terrible adventure ahead of her.

If you were drawn to Lu’s Back for its musical references, then Wintersong is the book for you! Author S. Jae-Jones invokes feelings of Labyrinth in her tale of the girl reaching maturity and the beautiful Goblin King, whose stories inspire her musical compositions and haunt Liesl’s dreams. Far from your stereotypical “beautiful all along” story, Liesl’s appeal lies in her talent, not in a pretty face. If you were frustrated by the obstacles that Nannerl faced with her music in Back, you’ll be thrilled by the power Liesl holds with her own music.

Check out our Recommendations page for even more librarian-curated picks!