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Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki: A Book Review

Sisi: Empress on Her Own
Author: Allison Pataki
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: The Dial Press
Release Date: March 8, 2016
Pages: 465
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • For readers of Philippa Gregory, Paula McLain, and Daisy Goodwin comes a sweeping and powerful novel by Allison Pataki. Sisi tells the little-known story of Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, the Princess Diana of her time, in an enthralling work of historical fiction that is also a gripping page-turner.

     Married to Emperor Franz Joseph, Elisabeth—fondly known as Sisi—captures the hearts of her people as their “fairy queen,” but beneath that dazzling persona lives a far more complex figure. In mid-nineteenth-century Vienna, the halls of the Hofburg Palace buzz not only with imperial waltzes and champagne but with temptations, rivals, and cutthroat intrigue. Feeling stifled by strict protocols and a turbulent marriage, Sisi grows restless. A free-spirited wanderer, she finds solace at her estate outside Budapest. There she rides her beloved horses and enjoys visits from the Hungarian statesman Count Andrássy, the man with whom she’s unwittingly fallen in love. But tragic news brings Sisi out of her fragile seclusion, forcing her to return to her capital and a world of gossip, envy, and sorrow where a dangerous fate lurks in the shadows.

     Through love affairs and loss, dedication and defiance, Sisi struggles against conflicting desires: to keep her family together, or to flee amid the collapse of her suffocating marriage and the gathering tumult of the First World War. In an age of crumbling monarchies, Sisi fights to assert her right to the throne beside her husband, to win the love of her people and the world, and to save an empire. But in the end, can she save herself?

     Featuring larger-than-life historic figures such as Bavaria’s “Mad King Ludwig” and the tragic Crown Prince Rudolf, and set against many of Europe’s grandest sites—from Germany’s storied Neuschwanstein Castle to England’s lush shires—Sisi brings to life an extraordinary woman and the romantic, volatile era over which she presided.

     My Review: Sisi is the sequel to The Accidental Empress. The story chronicles Sisi’s older years from the time she lives in Hungary away from her husband to her assassination. In this novel, Sisi believes that she has found happiness at last, only to find that there are problems with her family and she must return to the Austrian court. As she faces family drama, tragedy, and hostile life at the Vienna court, Sisi is filled with sadness and regret. She realizes that it is not good to be queen. Can Sisi be able to find the happiness and freedom that she longs for?

     Sisi is a sympathetic character. She was not prepared for her role as queen, and she did not play her role well. She longs to escape from the protocol of the court and to go horseback riding and take care of her infant daughter, Valerie, whom she can finally be a mother to rather than give to her suffocating mother-in-law. However, Sisi was not without faults and made some bad decisions. She was selfish at times. She did not think about others except herself. She also did not know how to be a mother to her elder children. She neglected both her only son and her elder daughter. It was not until it was too late that she recognized the consequences of her actions, and she regrets the choices she has made. The fact that she regretted what she had done made her more human and forgiving because she realizes the costs of her doings.

     Overall, this novel is an in-depth psyche of a complex woman. The story is about a woman’s quest to find happiness. Sisi was very flawed and complex, but she is real and vulnerable. This story was very beautiful, poignant, heart-breaking, and tragic. This novel is very meticulously researched, and I felt that I was walking side by side by the Empress reliving her most intimate moments. This book is full of political intrigue, drama, and scandal. I thought that Sisi was a breathtaking conclusion to The Accidental Empress. While this book is long, I honestly did not want this book to end for I was very fascinated by Sisi’s saga. Treat yourself to Sisi for this is a novel that you do not want to miss! I cannot highly recommend it enough for I love this book even better than The Accidental Empress! Sisi is a feast for historical fiction lovers and it will appeal to fans of Stephanie Dray, C.W. Gortner,  and Philippa Gregory.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

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