Sisi: Empress on Her Own
The Accidental Empress, Allison Pataki’s introductory novel on Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, is continued in this portrayal of her later years as an absent wife and adventurous wanderer. Sisi, as the Empress is styled by her loved ones, had endured betrayal and court intrigue in her younger years, and was made to step aside while the Emperor’s mother raised the royal children and ordered every other aspect of Sisi’s life, insisting on strict etiquette that stifled her sensitive nature. Thus, the beginning of this book has Sisi removed to her own palace of Gödöllő in Hungary, where she is determinedly raising her fourth child, her daughter Valerie, on her own terms.
Duty, however, continues to recall her, and she’s only able to get away for certain seasons. Eventually she begins traveling to England, where her favorite hunting sport is rumored to be incomparable, and is introduced to a man who would become a close companion for many years. The public follows her every move and, though beloved by many, she is vilified in the press for her long stretches from Austria, the Emperor and her duty. This, along with the strange relationship with her husband, serves as the antagonist in the story, though the opening chapter and a few throughout the book chronicle a madman stalking the Empress.
As a stand-alone novel, readers may question Sisi’s personality and selfish choices. For a fair assessment, The Accidental Empress should be read first to understand the reasoning behind her characterization. The author’s writing style is elegant and naturally flowing, and though a bit modernized in places, it does not take away from the story. Overall, Sisi is a fast-paced and immersive novel with a unique setting and intriguing set of characters. It is recommended for those looking for unconventional royalty fiction.