Thursday, January 10, 2013

Review: Jepp, Who Defied the Stars - Katherine Marsh

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Published on October 9, 2012
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 384
Read From: 12.30.12 - 1.2.13

Fate. 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? Jeep 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 unfortunately 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.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? I’m not opposed to it, nor am I a great fan of it. I like the silhouette of Jepp, because his garb indicates it to be of a historical setting, and I do like the starry background (and of course, the title font is lovely). The style just looks a little kiddish for a young adult novel.

Characters: “Plucky” is not the word to describe Jepp, but he is one of those protagonists that, despite all of the injustices he faces (and he faces a great many), he manages to persevere and keep a firm resolve to better his world, even in the worst of circumstances. He is brought extremely low at many points in the story, but he bounces back in way that completely endeared him to me. I’m not a great fan of protagonists who wrongly blame themselves for everything that happens to their friends, but Jepp doesn’t spend too much time crying over it, so his blaming himself for events that he couldn’t prevent didn’t get on my nerves like it usually does. His fixation on discovering his parentage was, at times, a tad bit aggravating. I was of the same mind as Magdalene: just forget about who your father might be and make your own future! But at the same time, I was able to understand his restlessness and need to find out who he was. I thought he was unnecessarily mean and unjust to Robert, and I frowned every time he said something rude to him. Pim, the court jester, was so slimy and creepy that I visibly shuddered every time he popped up in the story; I wanted him to meet his demise so badly. But my absolute favorite character was Magdalene. She was smart and knew her own mind, lacked an Attitude, was elegant while having some rather tomboyish interests simultaneously.

The Romance: Jepp’s affection for Lia is sweet, and I felt for him. I was, in fact, so invested in his attachment for her that I wasn’t at all sure if I liked when he transfers his love to Magdalene later in the story. But Magdalene was such a favorite of mine that I quickly decided that they were a perfect match. While Jepp falls for Magdalene fairly rapidly, his love doesn’t feel shallow, because he does in fact take a very long time to let go of Lia’s memory. And quite a bit of the storyline is spent on the romance, but it wasn’t annoying.

Plot: The plot is similar to a “lifetime” plot: there’s no arch enemy, no specific goal (except Jepp wants to discover who his father is), and the story follows Jepp through a series of important points in his life, but points that are largely only important to him and not the rest of his world. He has, for instance, no aspirations to overthrow a monarchy or discover a new world. With the element of Jepp’s unknown parentage, there is something of a mystery, which ends up propelling the story to its conclusion, but the plot is largely a coming-of-age and discovering-oneself story. The rich writing and characters is what keeps it from becoming boring.

Believability: I confess that I don’t know a whole lot about the countries that this story takes place in, or even the historical figures it deals with. In terms of dialogue, the Author gives Jepp and the other characters a very authentic narration voice without making them hard to understand.

Writing Style: The story switches between present-tense and past-tense for a time, while Jepp relates to the Reader events that led to his present circumstances (locked in a cage, traveling to an unknown destination). The Author uses present-tense the way it’s supposed to be used; at least, at first she does. Once Jepp has related previous events, the story settles permanently into present-tense, but oddly enough, it worked. It wasn’t used for the purposes of making the story feel more dramatic and movie-ish. It felt like I was in Jepp’s head, observing what is happening now. The Author also portrays the humiliations and injustices a court dwarf had to undergo without turning the book into a preachy story.

Content: One of the dwarves is raped, but there are positively no details; just the results (i.e. she becomes pregnant).

Conclusion: There are several twists that I wasn’t expecting, though Jepp’s sudden inheritance did feel a tad convenient and a little too timely. Still, I couldn’t help but enjoy the unlikely happy ending. As a whole, I greatly enjoyed this coming-of-age story, with its engaging characters and fascinating look into the world of court dwarves.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, ages fifteen and up, good for historical fiction Readers who enjoy a good coming-of-age story.

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