Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

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by Katherine Marsh

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Is it written in the stars from the moment we are born?

Or is it a bendable thing that we can shape with our own hands?

Jepp of Astraveld needs to know.

He left his countryside home on the empty promise of a stranger, only to become a captive in a luxurious prison: Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish Infanta. Nobody warned



Is it written in the stars from the moment we are born?

Or is it a bendable thing that we can shape with our own hands?

Jepp of Astraveld needs to know.

He left his countryside home on the empty promise of a stranger, only to become a captive in a luxurious prison: Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish Infanta. Nobody warned Jepp that as a court dwarf, daily injustices would become his seemingly unshakable fate. If the humiliations were his alone, perhaps he could endure them; but it breaks Jepp's heart to see his friend Lia suffer.

After Jepp and Lia attempt a daring escape from the palace, Jepp is imprisoned again, alone in a cage. Now, spirited across Europe in a kidnapper's carriage, Jepp fears where his unfortunate stars may lead him. But he can't even begin to imagine the brilliant and eccentric new master-a man devoted to uncovering the secrets of the stars-who awaits him. Or the girl who will help him mend his heart and unearth the long-buried secrets of his past.

Masterfully written, grippingly paced, and inspired by real histori­cal characters, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is the tale of an extraordinary hero and his inspiring quest to become the master of his own destiny.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Is our fate predetermined, or do we make our own fortune (or misfortune) through our actions and decisions? Marsh ponders this age-old question through the eyes of an extraordinary hero. When Jepp, a fatherless dwarf, joins the court of the Spanish Infanta, he's not prepared for the daily humiliations that become his life. He also doesn't expect to fall in love with a fellow performer, melancholy but lovely Lia. When she is raped, Jepp attempts to help her and her unborn child escape-with tragic results. As punishment for his insubordination, Jepp becomes dinnertime entertainment for the eccentric Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe. Inspired by friendship with Brahe's daughter, Magdalene, Jepp reveals his educated mind and is welcomed into the astronomer's close-knit circle of scholars. He even finds true love. But before Jepp can embrace this promising new future, he must embark on a journey of self-discovery to resolve his past. Marsh crafts a beautifully poignant coming-of-age tale of struggle, tragedy, and, finally, of triumph. Jepp's indomitable spirit is truly inspiring, and it is this rare quality that makes his character so memorable. The universal moral of self-acceptance is communicated skillfully. This shining gem is a must-have.—Alissa J. Bach, Oxford Public Library, MI
The New York Times Book Review
Self-conscious about your body? Unsure where—or if—you'll ever fit in? Wondering when people will start treating you like an adult? Katherine Marsh's Jepp, Who Defied the Stars delves into these perennial adolescent challenges while transporting her readers to a tiny island in Denmark in the late 16th century…Jepp does, as the title of Marsh's novel announces, defy what another less gifted and determined young man might accept as fate, just as Marsh transcends genre to create an engaging narrative complex enough to keep not-so-young adults turning its pages.
—Kathryn Harrison
Publishers Weekly
In the final years of the 16th century, a 15-year-old dwarf named Jepp struggles to understand himself and his place in the world; he’s caught between the pull of the past, the promise of the future, and the forces of fate and free will. The first of the book’s three sections finds a battered and beaten Jepp being transported ignobly in a cage to an unknown destination; along the way, he recalls the events that led him there, from his humble upbringing in an inn to becoming a court dwarf in Brussels (a role in which humiliation, opportunity, and danger are closely entwined). Jepp’s fortunes continue to wax and wane in the later sections, as he arrives at the island castle of astronomer Tycho Brahe. As in Marsh’s The Night Tourist and The Twilight Prisoner, real history is effortlessly woven into her fiction: while Jepp has his roots in an actual dwarf who served Brahe, Marsh transforms his “footnote” of a story into an epic search for love, family, respect, and a destiny of one’s own making. Ages 12–up. Agent: Alex Glass, Trident Media Group. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Mary Quattlebaum
Edgar-winning author Katherine Marsh takes readers into the busy household of the eccentric astronomer Tycho Brahe in the late 16th century. In this compelling historic novel, we follow first-person narrator Jepp, a "failed" court dwarf, as he tries to navigate, with dignity, a world that ridicules his appearance, demeans his intelligence and refuses to honor his love for Brahe's oldest daughter. Jepp's slightly more formal voice is perfectly in keeping with his times and position, and the book's stunning design, with its blue ink and end pages and chapter illustrations of stars and galaxies, calls to mind Brahe's heavenly maps and Jepp's own upward gaze. Reviewer: Mary Quattlebaum
VOYA - Deborah L. Dubois
Do the stars determine our fate, or do we shape our own destiny by the choices we make? Jepp leaves the inn in Astraveld where he was raised and protected by his single mother only to find himself captive at the royal court of the Infanta, where he is subject to daily humiliation as a court dwarf. After an attempted escape, he is exiled to an island ruled by an eccentric astronomer who treats him like a dog. Through his own cleverness and loyalty, Jepp creates a place for himself among the scholars there, finding love as well. Jepp cannot accept his place with Magdalene in Uraniborg until he learns the secret of his father's identity, so he begins a quest that puts him in danger again. He discovers the identity of his parents, in the process realizing his own strength and determination. This gripping, coming-of-age novel will resonate with those trying to find their place in the world. Does Jepp's parentage matter more than what he makes of himself? Even secondary characters are fully-developed, but Jepp's character is the guiding light on this quest to answer the question of fate over free will. He finds friendship as well as cruelty, but ultimately Jepp finds he makes his own destiny. This story, in three parts, will surprise and delight the reader. Reviewer: Deborah L. Dubois
Kirkus Reviews
Part coming-of-age novel and part paternity quest, this late-16th-century tale earns its distinction by virtue of its narrator: a dwarf. Edgar Award–winning author Marsh (The Twilight Prisoner, 2009, etc.) has written a fast-paced adventure, abundant with period details, that comprises about two years of the diminutive Jepp's life. Jepp's account begins at a perilous point in his story--"imprisoned in [a] star-crossed coach, bumping up and down bone-rattling roads"--which leads to an exposition of the events that have brought him to this fate. Eventually his tale moves to a time beyond the hazardous coach journey and on to a satisfying, if overly contrived, ending. The book has three parts, loosely linked to three crucial northern European settings: the rural inn where Jepp was raised by a loving mother; the kingdom of Coudenberg, where he endures the luxurious but humiliating life of a court dwarf and is involved in a horrible tragedy; and the palace of Uraniborg, renowned for astronomical research, where Jepp's status rises almost miraculously from pet dog to that of a respected scholar as well as a favored suitor for his beloved. Despite the fact that the third part of the book pales in comparison to the first two, the honest and humorously self-deprecating voice of Jepp moves readers to rejoice with him as he seeks and manipulates his destiny. (Historical fiction. 12-18)

Product Details

Disney Press
Publication date:
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File size:
3 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

Our coach proceeded along a cobblestone promenade to the side of the palace and then stopped. Don sprang out, as jaunty as a grasshopper, and lifted me down after him. My legs felt stiff and my nose cold, but it hardly mattered. In front of us was a small, arched door. I peered up at Don eagerly, awaiting his instruction. "Go ahead, Jepp," he said. "Open it."

For the first time in my life, I did not have to reach up for the handle. I pushed open the little door and stepped into a white marble hall illuminated by a pair of elegant brass candelabra. Don followed me inside, hunching beneath the doorframe, and when he straightened up, I noticed that the top of his head nearly brushed the ceiling. At the end of the hall was a staircase. Voices drifted down it.

Don gestured for me to follow him along the hall and up the stairs. It was the first time I had climbed so steep and winding a staircase. Halfway up, my head began to spin and I made the error of gazing back down. I ceased my climb and leaned against the wall, watching Don take the stairs ahead of me three and four at a time. It occurred to me that, like the little door and low-ceilinged hall, they too had been fashioned for a smaller-than-normal inhabitant. "Come along," said Don from the top of the staircase, mistaking my inexperience with heights for hesitation.

I steeled myself and continued to climb until I had reached his same eyrie platform. We passed through another small door and into a second hall. The voices were louder here. They beckoned from an illuminated chamber to our right. Don bent beneath the low doorframe to enter the chamber and I followed after.

I will never forget the sight that greeted me...

Meet the Author

An only child, Katherine Marsh spent a lot of her youth reading, trading stories with her grandmother who had run a bar in New York, and listening to her mother's frequent astrological predictions. After surviving high school and graduating from Yale, Katherine spent a decade as a magazine journalist, including as a reporter for Rolling Stone and an editor at The New Republic. Her first book, The Night Tourist, won an Edgar Allen Poe Award for mystery writing, and was followed by the sequel The Twilight Prisoner. Katherine lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and two children.

Find out more about Katherine at: or follow her on Twitter: @MarshKatherine

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Jepp, Who Defied the Stars 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Paperback_Princess More than 1 year ago
Probably one of the highlights of reading this book is that your main character is a dwarf, and the entire time I read this book, I had the voice of Tyrion Lannister running through my head. What a great way to read this book, but even without that it was a phenomenal story. Another fun fact about this book? It's written in blue ink which is so, so different and awesome. I really loved Jepp and his optimism towards everything and that he tried his hardest to protect Lia. I loved how the story was also told as Jepp looked back on his decisions. We saw both where he was and how he got there at the same time. When the story he was telling finally caught up with the timeline, you were feeling everything that Jepp was and you wanted nothing more than to ease the pain that he was feeling. Another great thing about this book is the setting. I loved that it was a historical fiction, but was centered around Jepp, instead of a figure that we know or being a paranormal sort of story. I loved the following Jepp's trail through Europe from Spain to his final destination. This book really came out of left field and wowed me. Not only that, but I think it is one of the most under appreciated books of 2012. I even wish that it hadn't taken that long for me to read because otherwise I would have spent all the time recommending it to people. It was refreshing and different and I loved every heartbreaking word. If this isn't on your To Be Read Shelf, maybe it should be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago