This is a character breakdown of the protagonist of The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu, based on the real woman that was Nannerl or Maria Anna Mozart. The second half of a two part series, both posts will contain spoilers for the entirety of the book. While I don't personally think this book is really a read for the plot, there will still be spoiler warnings at the beginning of both posts. Spoilers on premise and plot below.
Nannerl and Wolferl
Another highlight of the book is the close relationship between Nannerl and her brother. Through their youth and into their young-adulthood, it is a relationship that waxes and wanes in warmth, touching themes of companionship, competition, resistance, truth vs. lie, love, and more. Though we begin when they are very young and practically inseparable, we watch as the influences of society, their parents, and Hyacinth, touch their friendship.
"He would be directing the orchestra, I realized, and the premonition in his words appeared before me in all its future splendor, him a young man in a red coat, weaving his music to life. I would be on the ground, staring upward to see my brother at the top of the upside-down tree. I would be a lady with feathers in her wig and no quill in her hand, looking on in silence."
Nannerl, still a young girl for a lot of the narrative, balances her way through resenting the world for its limitations on her life while loving her brother for who he is — famous composer and all. Their relationship chills accordingly as she has to stand back and watch, yet it is never a breaking point. Nannerl's love for her brother is the one bit of love she ultimately will not give up. It is the one bit of love that (in the book, at least) she does not give away, even in her resistance towards the world and her fight for immortality.
"Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had stolen my music."
When their relationship does chill, it isn't because of her fight towards being remembered — it's because she was wronged, stolen from, and hurt deeply.
Granted, in another time where they do fight terribly, it is from Nannerl's jealousy and fear of what Hyacinth may be telling her brother and not her — the envy of what her brother might be getting, instead of her, just like in the real world. This impacts their interactions for a good part of the book, filling both with cold anger.
"Mama sighed. “Woferl is like your father. They are stubborn men, and as the women in their lives, we must learn to voice our opinions without letting them realize it. It is the way of things.”
The way of things."
Again, the theme of Nannerl resisting the rest of the world, "the way of things" is set against her relationship with her brother, showing how the fact that everyone offers more to Woferl than to her impacts each of them, together and apart.
At the climax of internal conflict, Nannerl is given a choice: to bring her brother for Hyacinth to consume and live forever in history, or not, and be forgotten by the rest of the world in favor of her brother.
She chooses Woferl.
"“I’m here, Woferl,” I said. He tried to smile, but the pain stopped him. “You came to see me,” he said. I swallowed. “Of course,” I said. “You are my brother.”"
"“I am a composer named Nannerl!”"
Nannerl isn't your typical YA "strong female protagonist". This isn't your typical YA strong feminist novel. It's quiet. A large part of the misogyny comes in the form of microaggressions that cut her down and limit her immediate actions, accenting the sweeping conflicts that limit her whole life. She is called selfish when asserting herself, and shoved responsibilities on the principle that "she will need to learn how to be a mother soon enough". Nannerl picks and chooses her battles, fighting them in word, thought, or subtle action instead of sword and swagger.
This doesn't make her any less of a fighter or a feminist, nor does it make her story any less worth telling and reading.
Remember her name. Both her first and last. Her name and skill were erased from history because of her gender, and that is something to be angry about. It is my hope that any other Nannerls of today will not have the same fate. Happy Women's History Month.
"“I signed them Mozart.”
I leaned forward. “Just Mozart?”
“Yes. For both of us. We are both Mozart, are we not?”
Janelle Yapp is a writer and self-dubbed professional daydreamer. Her work has appeared in Unpublished Magazine and Paper Crane Journal, among others. She is also a staff writer at Outlander Magazine.