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Book Review

Publisher's Note:

New York Times Notable Children’s Books of 2012 The Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Books of 2012 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? 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 secr…

Jepp, Who Defied the Stars

by Katherine Marsh

Overall Book Review:

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!

Content Analysis:

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.

Overall Book Rating

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About the Reviewer

An accountant and CPA by profession, I found myself a book reviewer for Squeaky Clean Reads by happenstance. When the opportunity came to transform that website into Compass Book Ratings, I was excited to seize it and meld my business background with my love of books. As the mother of three teenage sons, I have read a large number of children and young adult books and I believe that there is great value in a content review service. As much as we would love to read everything our children read, there just isn’t enough time. I also appreciate being able to select books for myself that are really worth my precious and limited reading time. I believe there is a book out there for everyone–they just have to find it!