NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A sweeping historical novel that tells the dramatic story of Sisi, the empress of Austria-Hungary who fought for her family, her people, and her empire in a changing world
“Irresistible—completely impossible to put down . . . Allison Pataki reimagines the reign of the nineteenth-century Princess Diana in this stunning book.”—Michelle Moran, bestselling author of Rebel Queen 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 finds solace at her estate outside Budapest, where she rides her beloved horses and enjoys visits from a man with whom she’s unwittingly become enamored. But tragic news brings the empressout 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, the empress 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.