A Rogue Librarian's Reading List

{January 19, 2013}   Jepp, who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh

jeppPlot: When Jepp leaves to become court dwarf to the Spanish Infanta, he is promised luxury and position. He does not expect the indignities and injustices he faces. But it is the pain suffered by the beautiful dwarf Lia that drives him to escape… and leads him, in chains, to Uranisburg where his new master, Tycho Brahe, studies the mysteries of the stars. Meanwhile Jepp struggles to discover his origins and change his fate.

This is a touching and beautiful tale about identity, fate, free will, dignity and science (as a side note, I love that Marsh is true to the science of the period and never tries to impose present knowledge on it). The tale is eloquently narrated by Jepp himself. I was drawn in by the first simple but evocative lines: “Being a court dwarf is no easy task. I know because I failed at it.” And I never lost my interest.

As Marsh explains in her afterword, this story is inspired by actual people and events and by paintings of court dwarves such as Las Meninas. She takes the figure of Jepp, a simple dwarf jester serving the Danish astrologer Tycho Brahe, and turns him into an intelligent and complex character struggling against fate and prejudice.

There is also a beautiful love story. But not the one you might expect. Jepp loves two women in this book. The first, the lovely Lia, is his equal in height and his companion in his luxurious prison. But it is Magdalena, who his equal in intelligence and shares his troubled origins, that is the truly interesting one. Jepp can`t stand her at first but watching their friendship and then love blossom was a beautiful thing.

I found the ending a bit sappy and convenient but then I’m told that I’m not happy unless the author tears my heart out at the end. I think a lot of people will be satisfied with the way Jepp makes his own fate with the woman he has come to love.

A wonderful and unique historical novel. Highly recommended.

2013 (#4)


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