Sisi: Empress on the Run: A Sophia Rose Review

Sisi: Empress on Her Own

by Allison Pataki
Historical Fiction
Penguin Random House/Random House Trade Paperbacks
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 2.7.17| Pages: 480

REVIEWER: Sophia Rose


Trade Paperback provided by publisher for review. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinions presented herein are my own except as noted.

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER For readers of Philippa Gregory, Paula McLain, and Daisy Goodwin comes a sweeping and powerful novel byAllison 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 Andrassy, 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.


The Accidental Empress was a book that really captivated me. Partly because of the author’s writing style, but mostly because, while I knew a smidgen about Empress Elisabeth of the Hapsburgs, I didn’t know much so I was eager to get her story. Sisi: Empress on Her Own takes up where The Accidental Empress left off and follows the middle and later years of Sisi’s life which also happens to coincide with the latter years of the Austrian Empire of the Hapsburgs.

I appreciate how the author paid attention to historical detail even while she didn’t bury the story in minutiae. There is so much here that I feel to do what she did in a duology was to pick and choose what to include that would further along her story of Sisi. I say it that way on purpose because I’m pretty sure that- as it is with any historical figure written about in a fiction story- it’s a take on that person and not a biography.

In the first book, I had a great sympathy for Sisi and was rooting for her to come into her own. This book struck me rather differently.

While this is the story of the Empress who broke away from the court and was allowed to live her own life, I was constantly struck by a person who was extremely self-absorbed. The Sisi of this story lived her own life on her own terms and refused to give attention to her duty- at least not for very long- as Empress and wife and mother. She kept falling for men (three of them) whose duty took them elsewhere, but she couldn’t see why this had to be.

This woman was a runner. Constantly running away from anything that cut up her peace and then once she got where she was going, she wasn’t satisfied there either. The most beautiful woman in the world, an Empress, treated well by her husband (as state marriages go) and she shuns it all only to sit there wondering why her people rip her to shreds in the newpapers and why her own children want nothing to do with her. I think this portrayed the humanity in her and her flaws mingled with her strengths rather well.

So, while I enjoyed learning more about Sisi the Empress and her personal life, I think the biggest enjoyment from this book was the overall history of the times and the colorful people Sisi encountered. I got emotional near the end because I was attached as Sisi was to many of these people. And yes, it is so sad to think how she met her death.

All in all, I’m glad to have gotten this second half of her story. I definitely want to read more about the key figures in this story including Sisi and I like the author’s writing so I want to get more of her work, too.


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