|Read (August 19-20, 2014)|
Publication Date: September 4, 2014
Publisher: Diversion Books
Genre/s: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Source: Publisher via Netgalley
“People think that what kills the soul is failed love. It is not. The real tragedy to one's soul is regret. Regret...leaves its stain for generations.”
The charm of this novel is in its narrative execution. It simply begs to be read and as a reader, you have no choice but to keep turning the pages. It's not only a testament to how my love for this genre grows with every historical fiction novel I read, but also because The Empress Chronicles has an entrancing quality that cannot be ignored. I recently read Queen of Someday, and while it falls under the same genre minus the magical elements, The Empress Chronicles is heavier and definitely more complicated.
Its storyline alternates between the contemporary and past timelines of two girls sharing the same name. Liz, from the present time, who is struggling from an anxiety disorder and feelings of social alienation contributed by her illness as well as her father's new life, and Elisabeth or Sisi, from the 19th century Austrian monarchy, who feels trapped by what the court requires of her.
I admit that even after I finished the novel, it was not made clear how these two are connected aside from bearing the same name, possessing a magical diary, and having to face the very same mental illness at some point in their lifetime. It's not surprising that I'm left with a sinking feeling of not having grasp something tangible. In a way, Liz's struggles to overcome her issues was gradually managed and realistically portrayed, and Sisi's acceptance of what she must sacrifice for her one true love was reflective of how she had transitioned from a blithe, indifferent girl to a more mature future queen. I am just having trouble seeing how some of the other details served in the book's overall picture.
So even though this novel's narrative is its main strength, it also acted as a double-edged sword, crippling the story in becoming more substantial and stable. If anything, it felt as if The Empress Chronicles was written with the second installment in mind, which I don't generally have qualms with except that I felt slightly disappointed that nothing significant happened until the latter part of the book.
This is obviously a matter of preference because I'm all for character build-up which Vitello did quite deftly but I find myself more interested in "having the power to rewrite history" aspect. This is not to say that the characters were not interesting because I did eventually warm up to our two different yet seemingly connected Elisabeths. It's just that we barely scratched the surface of what the blurb had promised. Nevertheless, I am excited to know what's in store for us in the next installment. There are so much tangents to be explored. The story really has no direction to go to but forward and the sequel would be hard-pressed to fall in the same pitfalls that were present in this one.
What is the point of having the power to change history, if it might be too late? I don't know. I think I will have words with Vitello and I totally meant that in a non-threatening way. The Empress Chronicles will really have its readers' minds grinding. With that bizarre ending and too many exciting prospects for the sequel to go for, unless you're not into character-driven stories and historical fiction in general, I don't see why you wouldn't pick this up. This would definitely appeal to fans of Philippa Gregory and will serve well for the curious and for those who needs an excuse to dabble more in the history of the world's past sovereigns.