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 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.
"This highly unusual story about a highly unusual hero will also feel like your story. Few of us are imprisoned dwarfs, but all of us want to guide our own lives." Jonathan Safran Foer, New York Times best-selling author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
"Rich, absorbing storytelling-a terrific read in every way." Nancy Werlin, National Book Award Finalist and author of Impossible
"Delightful characters, unique setting, and lovely prose. This is historical fiction at its best!" Ruta Sepetys, New York Times best-selling author of Between Shades of Gray
New York Times Notable Children's Books of 2012
The Wall Street Journal Best Children's Books of 2012
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About the Author
Find out more about Katherine at: www.katherinemarsh.com or follow her on Twitter: @MarshKatherine
Read an Excerpt
Our coach proceeded along a cobblestone promenade to the side of the palace and then stopped. Don sprang out, as jaunty as a grasshopper, and lifted me down after him. My legs felt stiff and my nose cold, but it hardly mattered. In front of us was a small, arched door. I peered up at Don eagerly, awaiting his instruction. "Go ahead, Jepp," he said. "Open it."
For the first time in my life, I did not have to reach up for the handle. I pushed open the little door and stepped into a white marble hall illuminated by a pair of elegant brass candelabra. Don followed me inside, hunching beneath the doorframe, and when he straightened up, I noticed that the top of his head nearly brushed the ceiling. At the end of the hall was a staircase. Voices drifted down it.
Don gestured for me to follow him along the hall and up the stairs. It was the first time I had climbed so steep and winding a staircase. Halfway up, my head began to spin and I made the error of gazing back down. I ceased my climb and leaned against the wall, watching Don take the stairs ahead of me three and four at a time. It occurred to me that, like the little door and low-ceilinged hall, they too had been fashioned for a smaller-than-normal inhabitant. "Come along," said Don from the top of the staircase, mistaking my inexperience with heights for hesitation.
I steeled myself and continued to climb until I had reached his same eyrie platform. We passed through another small door and into a second hall. The voices were louder here. They beckoned from an illuminated chamber to our right. Don bent beneath the low doorframe to enter the chamber and I followed after.
I will never forget the sight that greeted me...