Empress on Her Own

eBook - 2016
Average Rating:
Rate this:
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER * For readers of Philippa Gregory, Paula McLain, and Daisy Goodwin comes a sweeping and powerful novel by 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 Andr#65533;ssy, 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.

Praise for Sisi

"Pataki successfully juggles numerous political and personal plot lines while maintaining her focus on a fascinating central character. . . . Readers of Pataki's first book will want to know the rest of Sisi's story, but this novel stands on its own for historical fiction fans." -- Library Journal

"A deeply moving book about a complex character." -- BookPage

"A satisfying saga of the late Habsburg period." -- Kirkus Reviews

"Pataki brings richness and relevance to the story of the woman who worked tirelessly to protect the face of an empire." -- Publishers Weekly

"Pataki simply stuns me with each new book. I savor each page. Sisi is her best yet!" --Kathie Lee Gifford

"Readers will enjoy the glorious dilemma of whether to turn the pages swiftly, breathlessly following Empress Sisi from one astonishing, heartbreaking adventure to the next, or to linger and luxuriate in Pataki's vivid, sumptuous descriptions of the Habsburg court." --Jennifer Chiaverini, New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

"This entire novel is irresistible--completely impossible to put down! Pataki reimagines the reign of the nineteenth-century Princess Diana in this stunning book." --Michelle Moran, internationally bestselling author of Rebel Queen

"Emotional, exuberant, masterly, Sisi swept me into the glittering, treacherous world of the waning Habsburg empire. A must-read." --Lynn Cullen, bestselling author of Mrs. Poe

From the Hardcover edition.
Publisher: New York : Dial Press, c2016
ISBN: 9780812989069
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xiii, 438 pages) : map


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Sep 07, 2018

I loved this book as much as the "prequel" The Accidental Empress. I was totally engrossed in it from page one. The lives these royal figures lived were so removed from normal people I don't know how they could ever have possibly been good rulers or have had happy family lives. The history was fascinating, Sisi's survival through many upheavals both political and in her immediate and extended families is amazing. The elaborate rituals in every day life was astounding to me, I only thought of rituals in formal ceremonies. The restrictions on women especially would have driven anyone crazy, the fact that she found solace in riding was her saving grace. I wish the author had dozens of books that I could read, she is brilliant.

May 28, 2018

After reading this book, I looked up what became of Princess Stephanie (Sisi's son's wife) and her daughter. From what I was able to glean, their lives were pretty terrible, being disinherited by father Leopold II, caught in the middle of two world wars, mother/daughter estranged, etc. It would probably make a more interesting book than "Sisi."

Also interesting to me because my grandpa was drafted into Franz Joseph's army back in the mid-1890's from Croatia. He had never been anywhere, but was assigned as a valet to an officer, traveling on horseback from castle to castle, delivering dispatches. He loved it, and tried to re-up when his two years' service ended, but wasn't allowed to; so, with all his experience from waiting around in castle kitchens, he took off for California and opened a restaurant.

Mar 16, 2017

This is a wonderful story. Allison does a great job of bringing these historical figures to life. I found it so interesting that I started Googling the different people to see what they looked like and to read about them. I felt sorry for Sisi because she thought she had true love with Franz but like history, the Emperor can have a mistress but the Empress can't have one. Sisi fell in love with a couple men who could never be with her romantically. I didn't know there was an Emperor in the late 1800's like them who ruled several countries. This was well worth my time. I do recommend reading Accidental Empress first. You will not be disappointed.

Apr 20, 2016

This second book by Allison Pataki imagines the life of Empress Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary from 1868 to her death in 1898. When her fourth child was born a girl, Sisi got permission from her husband to raise this child alone in Hungary. Only the news that her son Rudy was being abused and tortured as part of his "becoming a man" brought her back to Vienna and the reviled court life. This novel explores Sisi's restlessness, her growing detachment from her court role, and her relationships with men outside her marriage. Tragedy stalks her as various members of her extended family succumb to the "Wittelsbach disease" which appears to be manic-depression and melancholy. The book ends with her assassination in Geneva in 1898 just as she and Franz Josef appear to be reconciling. As the author says in her historical notes, "You can't make these things up!"

Mar 17, 2016

Allison Pataki’s Sisi: Empress on Her Own is an affecting and engrossing historical novel of the beautiful and melancholy Empress Elizabeth of Austria. Married to Franz Joseph, the last of the Hapsburg emperors of Austria-Hungary at the age of fifteen, she was never made for the life of an empress.

Sisi would have been happiest if she had been one of the British landed gentry, part of the horsey set that did not have to stand on ceremony, whose lives were private and whose manners and customs were more relaxed than those of the aristocracy. But that is not her role, she was married to perhaps the most rigid and stolid of the royals, a man disciplined since birth to be a ruler and lived in a society where even the napkin-folds were state secrets.

She had an effusive and loving nature and was denied that, her oldest children’s care wrested from her by a domineering mother-in-law. This had tragic consequences for her son, Rudolph, whose life has been memorialized several times for its tragic end. I have read a few historical biographies of Empress Elizabeth and this novel keeps very much to the historical record. Many of the letters and conversations are direct from primary sources. However, it is a novel and Elizabeth’s thoughts and conversations are from Pataki’s imagination–grounded as they may be in historical record.

Overall, I enjoyed Sisi: Empress on Her Own. I appreciate that it did not wander too far astray from the facts. I also could identify, at times, with Sisi’s frustration and need for escape. I found the language a bit florid and melodramatic at time, more like a historical romance than a historical fiction novel. I also very much disliked the interstices that imagined her assassin’s scheming and preparation. He was mad and he wanted fame. I guess I don’t like giving murderers fame, even more than a hundred years later.

It is historically accurate and I think historical fiction plays a role in drawing people into history to learn more. Her life was consequential and Pataki suggests that history may have evolved differently if Sisi had been a different person. For example, except for her singular innovation to put a halt to the sadistic tutoring her son Rudolph was subjected to as a child, she was a very distant mother figure to her older chidren. Her mother-in-law Sophie has elbowed her out from their birth, but even when Sophie died, she did not try to assert herself in their upbringing. She worried about him, knew he was displaying tendencies we would now identify as sociopathic such as killing animals and she knew he was depressive, though that term was only coming into use then. And she did nothing.

However, her son was a liberal, a reformer, who perhaps if he had felt loved as a child, might have mitigated his father’s conservatism, might have drawn her father toward England and reform rather than toward Russia and Germany and rigidity – and then might have avoided the alliances that led to World War I and, inevitably, to World War II. History is full of “for want of a nail” events, and Rudolph’s story is a tragic, not just on the personal level, but also in the scales of history.

If you like historical fiction and are interested in the personal lives of the dynastic rulers whose lives and decisions had profound effect on our world, you will probably enjoy Sisi: Empress on Her Own. I enjoyed it and it was a fast and pleasurable read, other than moments when the dramatic prose got too rich for me, but then Sisi was a dramatic woman.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further


Subject Headings


Find it at PLYMC

To Top