Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki

Title: The Accidental Empress
Author: Allison Pataki
Read by: Madeleine Maby
Simon & Schuster
Length: 18 hours and 5 minutes
Source: Review Digital Audio from Simon & Schuster – Thanks!

In 1853, 15-year old Elizabeth “Sisi” Duchess of Bavaria accompanies her sister Helene to meet Helene’s intended, their cousin, Emperor Franz Joseph of the Hapsburg Empire of Austria-Hungry and their Aunt Sophie.   Sisi immediately finds herself attracted to a young stranger only to find out he is her cousin Franz Joseph.  Franz also finds himself attracted to the vivacious Sisi and not the very shy and quiet Helene.  Franz Joseph defies his mother’s wishes and asks Sisi to marry him and she becomes the accidental empress.  With no formal training for this position, Sisi soon finds herself out of her league and controlled by her domineering mother-in-law Sophie.  Will Sisi be able to find herself and her own happiness?

I loved the romance of this novel and how Sisi and Franz Joseph first met and fell in love.  I also loved that although it was like a romantic fairy tale, it was all true to history, and also showed what happens after the fairytale wedding.  Life didn’t go so well for Sisi right after her marriage and I thought it must have been exaggerated at times so I looked it up only to find out it was all too true.  Sisi had the mother in law from hell and her husband did nothing to help Sisi stand up to her.  Sisi grows throughout the novel and learns how to stand up for herself.  I loved seeing this growth, but I’ll admit that the novel dragged at times for me during the early marriage when Sisi was stuck in the rut with her mother-in-law completing domineering her.

I also was intrigued with the history of the Austria Hungarian empire during the 19th century.  I do not know the intricacies and seem to read mostly English and American history fiction.  I love to read about other countries in the past and wish there was more historical fiction along these lines available.  I thought it was fantastic that Sisi was so beloved of the people and how she worked to get to know and love the Hungarian people who did not feel a true part of the Empire. She was able to work on bringing the Empire truly together over the years by allowing Hungary to be an independent and true member.  This was her crowning achievement.

Madeleine Maby was a good narrator and this was an interesting audiobook.  One of the best parts of the audiobook was an author interview at the end discussing the sources and inspirations for the book and sorting out what was truth and what was fiction.  I loved this and also was pleased to find out that author Allison Pataki would like to write another book to complete Sisi’s story. 

Overall, The Accidental Empress is a unique historical fiction novel with enough intrigue to make one believe you are reading fiction.  It’s a fascinating period of history with truly riveting characters.


  1. Laura, this sounds like a wonderful audio book. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for sharing your honest thoughts about it in a well-written review.

  2. Thank-you. It was a great audiobook with a unique story!

  3. I have bought this book as a "Christmas book present" for my dtr. She loves historical fiction about real life queens, and empresses!