Being a court dwarf is no easy task. I know because I failed at it.
Jepp, Who Defied The Stars was one of The New York Times's notable YA books of 2012 (as I've mentioned earlier), and it looked really, really good to me. Plus, I loved The Fault in Our Stars and Code Name Verity, two of the other books on the list. And also Bitterblue, though to a lesser extent. Anyway, Jepp is a dwarf in the 1500's. He has grown up in Astraveld, in his mother's hotel, where he has always been loved and accepted for who he is by the locals. But one day, he leaves Astraveld for the court of the Spanish Infantata to become a court dwarf. The person who recruited him told him that he would have luxuries beyond his wildest imaginings, which is true, but Jepp and the other dwarfs are treated humiliatingly. They must do all sorts of ridiculous things, like dancing, and jumping out of pies. They're made to seem not human, and that's nothing compared to the malicious Pim, who gets all of them into trouble. Jepp could bear it, but he meets Lia, and it breaks his heart to see her suffering. Jepp and Lia attempt to escape from the palace, but they are captured, and Jepp is imprisoned alone in a tiny cage, travelling across Europe. At the beginning of each section, Jepp gives an update on his imprisonment, and then goes back to recollect what happened at the court, which was very effective, because the reader gets to see both times simultaneously, until they meet up. " 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. Masterfully written, grippingly paced, and inspired by real historical characters, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is the tale of an extraordinary hero and his inspiring quest to become the master of his own destiny."
I was a bit apprehensive, because some people found the book's writing beautiful, but the story boring. But thankfully, I really loved Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. The writing certainly was very, very beautiful, and atmospheric. It was probably not realistic for the time period, but it did try to imitate an older style, and I think it worked very well. It certainly drew me in, slowly but surely. I gradually began to love this book; it's certainly not a YA book that is really suspenseful, but it is absorbing.
As you all know, I love historical fiction, and this was an excellent historical fiction book. I'm not really interested in this period, but the writing was so good, and the plot so great. I also loved the characters; Jepp wasn't the most likable character ever, but he was certainly interesting. And really, who needs likable characters? Parts of the book were really, really moving, and if I couldn't empathize, at least I could sympathize with Jepp's plight. His homesickness really resonated with me, and the way that he - just because he was a dwarf - was treated, was really sad. In his second home, he has to sleep with a moose and sit under his master's table, as if he's a dog. I did find the character of Tycho fascinating though.
I will agree with many reviewers that this is a YA novel that will not hold everyone's attention. It's no Throne of Glass or Shadow and Bone. It moves at a slower pace, and will most likely not appeal to so many people. And that's a good thing about it. It's a much more absorbing, and ultimately, better novel for it. Generally, popular YA novels tend to be not very good, and although I do like many of them (Divergent, for example), sometimes they're less rich. Rich is definitely a great word to describe this one. Magical is also another great word; Jepp, Who Defied the Stars really is a magical novel. One reviewer on Amazon described it as "charming in its lack of concern with the commercial."
I would definitely really recommend Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. It has excellent descriptions, but it's also a really absorbing novel. And, as another reviewer commented, it does move at a pretty fast pace considering how much description there is. It's an excellent historical novel that really does come to life, and talks really movingly about being more than what's written in your stars, more than what's intended for you.