For centuries, human beings have disagreed about our destinies. Is the world only chaos, full of random choices, yet free ones? Is there freedom? Or are we bound to a fate written before our birth, written in a book that cannot be changed? Is God in control – or are we in control – or both?
That’s the question tackled in Katherine Marsh’s novel, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. As the years have passed, I’ve grown less interested in YA fiction (though I continue to write it), but when I saw the title on a library shelf, it sounded too promising to pass up. Also, I love unlikely heroes, and Jepp seems certainly, ha, short, on the heroic potential.
A teenage dwarf living in 16th Century Europe, Jepp is immediately a distinct and unique voice, mixing old-fashioned, somewhat archaic language with simple, clear thinking. Living in the small town of Astraveld, he is raised to believe the stars decree a man’s fate. In this, he is similar to the author, who was raised in a family that focused strongly on astrology. But Jepp mixes the astrology with Christianity, and frequently uses Biblical allusions, something refreshing in a 21st Century novel.
“There is no luck,” [Don] confided. “There are only the stars, Jepp. That is where our fortune or lack of it resides.
“Not with God?”
“God made the stars….But it is the celestial bodies that make us.”