Book Review: ‘A Life in the Shadow of the Crown,’ by A. Piper Burgi

5-stars for “A Life in the Shadow of the Crown” by A. Piper Burgi



Historical Fictions are inherently difficult for a writer. Their love of history, and innate desire to share their knowledge, to teach, often causes them to lose sight of their A Life in the Shadow of the Crownmission: Capture their readers on an emotional level by connecting them with their characters, while placing the fictionalised story into a historical context.

In addition, the writer must contemporise the story where needed for today’s reader, keep it moving, and avoid the potential trap of having her story read too much like a history text.

Piper Burgi has succeeded with all the above in her newest book ‘A Life in the Shadow of the Crown,’ delivering a warm story that is as heartening as it is meaningful and as fanciful as it is historically accurate.

As one reads this delightful retelling of the plight of the young Empress Elisabeth ‘Sisi’ of Austria-Hungary, struggling to acclimate herself under the constant supervision of the meddling Arch-Duchess Sofie, her mother-in-law, one cannot help but feel compassion for the Empress – often hostility for the dominance that manifests in the reader’s mind as abusive and cruel.

Life for the young Bavarian tomboy princess in the 19th-century Austrian court is never easy. Every public statement is scrutinised or derided; and what she wears, who she associates with, where and when she travels is often scorned for their perceived political statement.

It’s a life that is certainly believable, and with wonderful clarity, Ms Burgi weaves her tale so that one never truly knows how much of the story is fictionalised. This, in itself, is crafty historical fiction writing.

Other things I found praiseworthy:

Without slowing the pace, a definite potential, the author spends adequate time developing her supporting characters making you care for or dislike them.

The side stories are never haphazardly tossed in, reading like filler or distracting journeys away from the main plot, and the changing settings, which could be confusing, aren’t. They drive the story and quicken the pace of the read making this more consumable for today’s reader.

What I liked most:

The character-driven story

A good story – a good compelling story needs a likable and relatable, or at least admirable, hero or heroine. And that hero or heroine needs to be on a journey. And they need a goal. And they need to have and overcome formidable obstacles.

The new Empress is the consummate heroine on a clearly defined journey facing a wide assortment of obstacles. One feels for her – feels defensive for her while hoping to see her win by finding her place and the inner strength to assert herself amongst the aristocratic elite.

The balancing act: Fiction / History

I share with the author her love of history and appreciate when I can honestly state a book nurtured me as much as it entertained me.

A well-written historical fiction is a precious gem in disguise. One reads a smart tale, gets swept into the characters’ lives and journeys, and without working at it, comes away enriched. Filled with a portion of our history he/she may never have researched or found.


I have none. This book was a pleasure from the opening timeline, (A smart device) to the very end.

Summary and Recommendation:

‘A Life in the Shadow of the Crown’ easily satisfies my criteria of a 5-star read. It’s smart, well-written, sentimental without being gushy or maudlin, flexible (Readers 8-88 would find this enjoyable) rich and historically accurate. The writer uses her literary devices well and craftily commands you to care about her hero’s journey.

I give A. Piper Burgi’s ‘A Life in the Shadow of the Crown’ 5-Stars and my highest recommendation.


Review by TE Mark – Writer / Screenwriter


NOTE: This book is presently in pre-release. Follow this link to the author’s website for updates.


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