Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, by Katherine Marsh (fiction) - a court dwarf dreams of more

book cover of Jepp Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh published by Hyperion
In the company of tall women and taller men,
a thinker, a planner, a dreamer,
Jepp's life as a dwarf in the 16th century was never easy.

From a humble country inn to the royal court in Brussels to Tycho Brahe's observatory, Jepp's meteoric rise and fall are not what his horoscope predicted! Being part of a collection, as shown in Diego Velasquez' paintings - pah!

You'll find Jepp and his adventures at your nearest independent bookstore on its US publication day, Tuesday, October 9th; ask your local library to order it, too.

Jepp is a fascinating character, not satisfied with the hand that Fate has dealt him - do you think he can escape his destiny?

Book info: Jepp, Who Defied the Stars / Katherine Marsh. Hyperion, 2012.  [author's website] [publisher site]

My Recommendation: Jolting down a frozen dirt road, Jepp wonders how fate took him from his tiny village to a royal palace to this prison on wheels heading north. If the young teen could just find his long-absent father, discover why he was born a dwarf, learn to change his destiny…

His family’s inn sees fewer and fewer travelers, as Spanish Netherlands wars with its rebellious Protestant north in the late 1500s. Elegant Don invites Jepp to become a court dwarf at the Infanta’s palace in Brussels, to own more than one tattered book, to be dressed in silks, to dine on rare delicacies, so the thirteen-year-old leaps at the chance.

But the luxuries come at a high price, for the five court dwarfs are essentially prisoners in their gilded rooms and must perform silly tricks to amuse the princess and her courtiers. Jepp is not happy to be a mere clown, but is even unhappier to see his friend Lia become sadder by the day. Their daring attempt to escape the palace together proves costly, and Jepp is shackled and sent far away from the Infanta’s court and his friends. His horoscope promised much better than this!

In a distant icy land, Jepp finds himself part of an astronomer’s astonishing household, full of amazing mechanical devices, researchers mapping the stars, and a chance to think and learn. Are our fates truly locked in place, as the star-readers claim? Can Jepp change his destiny? Will he ever find his father? Could his horoscope promising “a good marriage to one faithful and true” really come true, or will only the predicted disasters befall him?

Inspired by the real Jepp of Uraniborg and Velasquez’s paintings of court dwarfs, this historical novel pulses with energy and intrigue as our narrator traces his life journeys and indeed tries to defy the odds and live happily into the landmark year 1600. (One of 5,000 books recommended on Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

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