Author: Katherine Marsh
My rating: 5 of 5
Growing up at his mother’s small cross-roads inn, Jepp developed an avid appetite for learning and the larger world . . . a world particularly large to the boy born a dwarf. When the opportunity to fulfill this appetite at the Infanta’s court presents itself, how could Jepp say no? Upon his arrival, however, Jepp finds that he will have to struggle against a culture that seeks to define him and his intellect based on his height. Regardless of the situations he is placed in, Jepp must constantly struggle with the question: do the stars under which he was born determine his future, or is he able to decide his own fate?
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a historical novel as engaging as Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. The historical settings, first in the Infanta’s court in the Spanish Netherlands and later in Tycho Brahe’s castle in Denmark, are unusual, interesting, and written with sufficient historical detail to be educational and entertaining, while avoiding becoming overbearing. The writing style is excellent. It is rare to find anything written in first person present tense that isn’t painfully clunky and obtrusive, yet Katherine Marsh’s writing gets out of the way and seamlessly lets the story have precedence. Jepp, himself, is the true highlight of the story, however. He is such a picture of internal conflict that the tension within the character is truly gripping–he is both an educated, witty, quick-tongued young man and a shy, innocent, country-bred dwarf; he desires to create his own path, yet fears his future is defined by fate; etc. Honestly, I think many readers should read this book simply to come to better terms with the conflict within themselves. Even for readers who experience no inner conflict (does such an individual exist?), I would still highly recommend Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, as simply a good story.