The year is 1853, and the Habsburgs are Europe’s most powerful ruling family. With his empire stretching from Austria to Russia, from Germany to Italy, Emperor Franz Joseph is young, rich, and ready to marry.
Fifteen-year-old Elisabeth, “Sisi,” Duchess of Bavaria, travels to the Habsburg Court with her older sister, who is betrothed to the young emperor. But shortly after her arrival at court, Sisi finds herself in an unexpected dilemma: she has inadvertently fallen for and won the heart of her sister’s groom. Franz Joseph reneges on his earlier proposal and declares his intention to marry Sisi instead.
Thrust onto the throne of Europe’s most treacherous imperial court, Sisi upsets political and familial loyalties in her quest to win, and keep, the love of her emperor, her people, and of the world. (Goodreads synopsis)
As much as I didn’t wholeheartedly enjoy the flow of the book, I have to admit that the setting felt very much real. There were at times where I felt that I was definitely was in Austria or Budapest or wherever Empress Sisi is in the book. Although the setting was very perfect according to my liking, I have to say that the interaction between the characters are just either cringe-worthy or just downright annoying to the point that I wished I could roll my eyes to the back of my head and back again. The interactions between the Empress and the Archduchess were definitely an interaction that I am more than willing to pass, especially once you get the hang that the author is somewhat bias towards the relationship between the two. I get that from the many literature ever written about the two, fiction or otherwise, shows how antagonistic, if not downright mean, the Archduchess is towards the Empress prior to the marriage between Sisi and Emperor Franz Joseph and throughout their marriage, but reading the interactions between the Archduchess and the Empress in this book is just downright painful. Not the kind of painful such as that I felt bad for the Empress but more like, ‘what is this interaction? Am I watching reading a cheap soap opera novel instead of a properly written historical fiction? Ugh, my eyes cannot take this’.
I feel like the author, even from the very beginning that the Archduchess appear in the book, had been deliberately trying to portray her in a bad light and it goes like throughout the book. I’m not saying that the Archduchess is not without her personal agenda and her own mean streak towards Sisi, I’m just saying that her portrayal in the book is just poor and pathetic. The Archduchess in this book looked nothing more like a sad excuse of a mean mother in law looking for an indefinite fault in her daughter in law; Archduchess Sophie, with all her fault and her total control of her son’s life, was definitely more than a meddling mother in law, she has in all her rights and glory maintain the throne while grooming his son to be the Emperor, and let’s be honest, that’s not an easy task for a women in that era. I have to be honest, I am not that familiar with the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s history, but I can tell this much, the author’s portrayal of some of the defining figures in this book is just poor and seems too two-dimensional and at times a bit lazy, except for the portrayal of Count Andrassy. I feel like the author was very positively biased towards the Count, she kept on portraying him a more positive light than, let’s say, the Emperor. It almost felt like she was trying to make the reader had a crush on the Count, which on my part, just made me not liking the Count more. Not to mention that the author, at times, can be a little overtly too romanticising the portrayal of the male characters by saying how good looking or striking they are, honestly I didn’t think so though.
Anyway, enough of me complaining about the characters; obviously this book still had its own charm, if not I would have given up on it since ages ago. I’m exaggerating obviously. I don’t know if this book is going to be series or not, considering the book didn’t end with the Empress’ death but only up to her coronation as the Queen of Hungary, but I can tell you that if there was going to be a sequel, I won’t be reading the sequel. I was more than happy that the book end where it ends, it made the impression of the Empress more alluring than having to read about her death as the ending. There were at times where I felt that the book was a bit too slow and that I almost gave up entirely but then there’s this super cool scene that hooks me back. Oh, are you wondering what is this supposed cool scene? I know, I know, it’s a bit weird to use the term ‘super cool’ in a historical fiction like this, but it definitely was. Two scenes came to my mind when I think of how this book didn’t really ruined the experience for me; (1) when Ludovika stand up against the Archduchess for Sisi, there were times where I felt that Ludovika seems like a timid person and seeing how she stand up for her daughter was just heart-warming and badass; and (2) the part where Sisi told the Emperor that she was pregnant for the fourth times and that they both acknowledged the ‘end’ of their marriage, for some reason I felt like this the best part of the book. I kind of were a bit disappointed that that particular scene only appear once, I felt that had the author used the same approach as she did for that scene throughout the book, I would have enjoyed it more.
Right, enough of me complaining; I suggest that for those who are a fan of historical fiction, or have an interest in the ever so beautiful Empress Sisi, do give this book a read, but be mindful that it’s not much a great portrayal of a royal family. Oh, one more thing, the title should have been a dead giveaway of the ‘soap opera’ possibility, but apparently I have not acknowledged that when I first pick the book up.
Title: The Accidental Empress
Author: Allison Pataki
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, History, Romance, Adult