Since childhood, we have been told that in fairy tales, the hero and heroine (usually a prince and princess) live happily ever after. The reality is that the world in which the highest levels of society live in (royalty included) can feel like a gilded cage. There are rules and traditions that can seem archaic and frankly weird to the average person.
The Accidental Empress, by Allison Pataki, was published back in 2015. The novel tells the story of Empress “Sisi” Elisabeth of Austria. At fifteen, she met her future husband, Franz Joseph I of Austria. He was supposed to be her older sister’s husband. Instead, they defied tradition and married for love.
But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. Her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie of Austria, was a dominant figure in her son’s life. Sisi often found herself fighting not just for her husband, but for a sense of autonomy. Her life at court was night and day from the rural estate that she grew up on.
The only way to survive is to use her brain and figure out how to live in a world that can only be described as dog-eat-dog.
I truly enjoyed this book. Told from Sisi’s perspective, the story starts with a naive young girl and ends with a woman who has learned how to play the game. Along the way, there is love, heartache, growth, and the sometimes harsh lessons that come with figuring out who you are.
Do I recommend it? Yes.
The Accidental Empress is available wherever books are sold.