Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh is historical fiction that examines what it meant to be a dwarf around 1600 in Europe. This unique perspective leads to a book that is thought-provoking and at times introspective about whether individuals, circumstances, or the fates control personal destiny. Strong characterization, vivid descriptions, and a sprinkling of historical characters make the era come to life.
The first part of the book alternates between Jepp’s current, perilous, and uncertain situation and flashbacks to how he arrived to be in such dire straits. This effectively creates tension and foreboding. The book then slips into a slower and more reflective narrative as Jepp struggles to define himself and understand his place in the world. In addition to being an enjoyable read, this novel is so rich in themes that it would be excellent for book clubs and school projects. Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is first-class historical fiction, a breath of fresh air, and highly recommended!
Profanity/Language: 1 mild obscenity.
Note: Use of the term “b*stard” was used a few times in a factual manner and not tallied.
Violence/Gore: Report of wars; report of a character being stabbed; a scene (~1 page) in which a character is violently beaten with the mention of blood; report of death in childbirth; an animal is injured and must be put down; report of an appendage being chopped off in a prior duel; report of the death of a family member.
Sex/Nudity: A character questions the identity of their father; reference to “dalliances” with servant girls; some jokes with bawdy innuendo; character removes clothes to get new ones and to bath (non-sexual); a character is pregnant out of wedlock; characters hold hands and kiss; a character is attracted to another character and things of about them (non-descriptive); a character reports having an affair and a child out of wedlock; implication/suspicion/discussion that a character forced himself on another (no details).
Mature Subject Matter:
Death, death of family members, astrology, abuse, illegitimate children, forced sexual advances
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Ale is served at taverns. A character regularly consumes hippocras. A character is given opium to make her sleep. Ale and wine are often consumed to excess at dinners and banquets by characters of all ages. Some characters get drunk. A moose likes to drink ale/beer.