Jepp, Who Defied the Stars – Katherine Marsh

Set during the late 1500s, young Jepp, a dwarf, is much loved by his innkeeper mother.  When a mysterious noble visits the inn, he convinces Jepp and his mother that Jepp should go with him to the court of the Infanta, the ruler of the Spanish Netherlands (modern day Belgium).  Jepp is surprised to see other little people in court where they are treated like pets.  The delicate Lia is abused and Jepp is caught helping her escape.  After a harsh beating, Jepp is punished and exiled to the servitude of Tycho Brache, the father of modern astronomy.  At this point, the story really grabbed my attention because the author delves into the marvels of Tycho Brache and his detailed charting of the stars.

I highly recommend turning to the back of the book and reading the Author’s Note first.  A bit of background knowledge about the Spanish Netherlands and the historical characters in the book would helped ground the story for me.  The historical aspects of this novel are interesting and well researched and unique to most young adult historical fiction books.  The writing is quite good.  “Poor Jepp” is what I thought throughout the book.  Even when fortune smiled, he could not be happy until he got some answers and is comfortable with his place in the world.  Jepp comes full circle and readers will enjoy the ending.

Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe did have a dwarf jester at his estates on Uraniborg.  The author includes the many wonders of Brahe’s castle, from fountains to automatons to the scholarly achievements and discoveries in astronomy.  The measure of good historical fiction is when the reader seeks more information after reading.  I did.  One website with more information about Tycho Brahe:

NetGalley review   Publication date 10.9.12

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