For readers of Philippa Gregory, Paula McLain, and Daisy Goodwin comes a sweeping and powerful novel by New York Times bestselling author 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.
Allison Pataki is one of my favorite historical novelists. Her attention to period detail, her rich prose, and the fascinating figures from history she brings to life stay with the reader and continue to get better and better. SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN is my favorite so far. I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy for review, and offered this endorsement:
“From luscious moonlit gardens to sumptuous castles, the settings of SISI: EMPRESS ON HER OWN are as dazzling as those of Vienna’s Imperial Court Theater, and the drama enacted on its pages is no less impressive. Pataki resurrects the unforgettable Empress Elisabeth in a rich and exquisite tragedy of passion and heartbreak—a true tour de force.”
At Allison’s launch party, she discussed how her travels led her to Sisi, and that it was as if they had been on a journey together in the writing of the books. She also talked about the power of fiction to reveal the ways individuals impact the outcome of history, and to inspire readers to understand their importance in the world.
I have one copy to give away to a lucky commenter below. Please tell me your favorite historical fiction author, or your favorite of Allison’s novels. Leave your comment by Monday, March 14th at 5 PM EST, and please share on social media. (US only.)