New York Times best-selling author Allison Pataki follows up on her critically acclaimed debut novel, The Traitor's Wife, with the little-known and tumultuous love story of "Sisi", the Austro-Hungarian Empress and captivating wife of Emperor Franz Joseph.
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.
With Pataki's rich period detail and cast of complex, bewitching characters, The Accidental Empress offers a captivating glimpse into one of history's most intriguing royal families, shedding new light on the glittering Hapsburg Empire and its most mesmerizing, most beloved "Fairy Queen."
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I can't recommend it.
The story has interesting parts, esp. if you're fascinated by Sisi - proven by the fact that I made it trough the whole audio book, even if I had to grind my teeth at some places and it nearly had me dnf at the very beginning.
For one: In Bavaria, even back in these days: Bratwurst and Beer was not was eaten on most days - it was eaten, but not as a diet - I'm pretty sure about that. "Bummerl" was as far as I know a dog, not a horse. And it is not pronounced "Bume-rel" - but more on that later.
But I endured. Even if I felt the characters were a bit flat and not much fleshed out. There were also major jumps in time, so the chapters of Sisi's life - her first time fleeing from court - in which I was most interested in were only touched in a few short sentences. It is historical fiction - here would be the part where the author would have had really time to dive into Sisi's soul and mind. But she didn't and we only get repetitions about how much she hates court life. This is repeated again and again, but not much shown, just told.
The audio book is very long, but we never really get to know "Sisi". That was what disappointed me most - nose to nose with the next part of my review:
A major "Ouch" for me as a german listener: Can the narrator please look up her pronunciations and train to say words right? It's not that hard. Youtube, german fans etc. In this day and age, there are many sources to get help with this. The narrators I work with all do that. And from a publishing house, I would expect an audio book with correctly pronounced phrases and names.
Examples would be: The often repeated and oh so wrong pronounced "Bad Ischl" made me nearly throw my phone against a wall and only the fact that it was more expensive that the audio book stopped me. It is not pronounced "Badisch Hell". "Gackel" - in the first moment I didn't even understand what kind of strange word she said and I'm Bavarian - only as "Sisi" explained what kind of creature a "Gackel" was, did I get it. "Schlittschuhläufer" was completely garbled. I know it is a hard word, but as a narrator, can you please look it up and say it right? Pretty please?
If this audio book was available in German - I would have returned this version and gotten myself the translation and this is something I usually never do.
I'm interested in Sisi and should have trusted my gut and gotten a book written by an Austrian or german and especially not an audio book in a different language. I will look further - and read some nonfiction until I find something else.
P.S. The weather in Bavaria - it is not much different from Austria.