Friday, October 5, 2012

Review of Jepp Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

Jepp Who Defied the Stars
by Katherine Marsh
5 Scribbles
Released October 9, 2012
The lives of dwarves brought to royal courts during the Renaissance were challenging, often filled with humiliation and hardship at the hands of nobles, especially when they were made court jesters. Such is the case for the tender-hearted young dwarf, Jepp, who begins his journey as a boy leaving his beloved mother. Jepp is promised knowledge, status and grand experiences to entice him to leave Astraveld, all things he’s dreamed of, but none of them related to his true desire—to know who his father is—and in this way to know who he truly is and where his destiny lies.

This well-researched and sophisticated story told through the eyes of the protagonist, Jepp, is a welcome offering for strong young adult and adult readers with a solid interest in historical fiction—especially historical fiction with such rich description and such strong period language. Marsh weaves fiction with real historical events and persons to breathe life into the era with much success. Jepp is an old soul, intent on finding his destiny through his lineage, curious and intelligent well beyond most boys his age. Through his myopic vision early on in the novel, his mother is faultless, loving and warm, anemic, romanticized characters like Lia become great lovers, and giants like Robert robust heroes. The actions of the villains, Don Diego, Pim, and even Tycho, reflect the value of court dwarves of the time; clearly they were little more than slaves to the royals and novelties to entertain. And yet through the seasoning of Jepp’s heart and his fortuitous education, the novel becomes more than just a story of the oppressed, instead it becomes a living experiment, an examination of the idea that one can long for something he has never had. Perhaps more importantly, Jepp’s life becomes a challenge to the idea that our fates or our birthright “constrain[s] us,” and a proclamation that one can “through our will and intellect—and most of all our heart” defy our stars and make our future what we like—a message that, despite the ages, still holds true today.

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