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Jepp, Who Defied the Stars Audiobook, by Katherine Marsh Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Katherine Marsh Narrator: Richard Powers Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2012 ISBN: 9781481590969
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (452 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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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 the strange, luxurious prison that is Coudenberg Palace, the royal court of the Spanish infanta. Nobody warned Jepp that, as a court dwarf, daily injustices would become his seemingly unshakeable 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 perform a daring escape from the palace, Jepp is imprisoned again, alone in a cage. Now, spirited across Europe by a kidnapper in a horse-drawn carriage, Jepp is unsure where his unfortunate stars may lead him.

Before Jepp can become the master of his own destiny, he will need to prove himself to a brilliant and eccentric new master—a man devoted to uncovering the secrets of the stars—earn the love of a girl brave and true, and unearth the long-buried secrets of his parentage. He will find that beneath the breathtaking cruelty of the world is something else: the persistence of human kindness.

Masterfully written, grippingly paced, and inspired by real historical characters, Jepp, Who Defied the Stars is an awe-inspiring story of triumph in the face of unimaginable odds.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Delightful characters, unique setting, and lovely prose. This is historical fiction at its best!”

    Ruta Sepetys, New York Times bestselling author of Between Shades of Gray

  • “Jepp, a dwarf, was taken from his home in Astraveld and brought to Coudenberg Palace, where he became an amusement for the Spanish Infanta. Is this humiliating fate written in the stars, or can he shape his own destiny? Set in the late sixteenth century, the story brings to life the dawn of the age of scientific thought and exploration. Paul Michael Garcia is superb as he uses subtle touches to give each character a unique flavor. His voice for the well-known astronomer Tycho Brahe is especially skillful. Katherine Marsh has written a fascinating story, and Garcia’s performance is icing on the cake. One wishes the print version’s Author’s Note, which provides historical context, and a conversation with the author had been included in the audio. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”


  • “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 bestselling author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

  • “It is no easy trick to conjure characters who seem truly situated in the past rather than merely transplanted from the present…When it works, as it does in Katherine Marsh’s Jepp, Who Defied the Stars, the result is gold.” 

    Wall Street Journal
  • “Rich, absorbing storytelling—a terrific read in every way.”

    Nancy Werlin, National Book Award finalist

  • “An epic search for love, family, respect, and a destiny of one’s own making.”

    Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “A fast-paced adventure, abundant with period details…The honest and humorously self-deprecating voice of Jepp moves readers to rejoice with him as he seeks and manipulates his destiny.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “With an engaging hero and unusual setting, Jepp is compelling historical fiction about the treatment of those who are different and the challenges they face to be viewed as equals.”


  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, October 2012
  • A New York Times Notable Book for Children
  • Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award

Listener Reviews

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  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Alissa | 2/17/2014

    " This one was most excellent! I predict it will be up for some awards come the end of the year. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Phoebe | 2/9/2014

    " Jepp has a decent life as the son of a successful innkeeper, but because of his short stature he knows his options are limited. The day a nobleman arrives at the inn and offers Jepp a place at court, his curiosity overrides his misgivings, and he leaves everything he has ever known to become a sort of performing pet among other dwarves at the palace of the Infanta in Brussels. This is only the beginning of Jepp's adventures, and although I felt the book dragged a little in the middle and the first person present tense voice sometimes grew annoying, the plot is unique enough to propel one on to the end. The author informs us in an afterword that Jepp was a real person though only a footnote to history, and she peoples her book with other real people, including Tycho Brahe, who was a fascinating personage in himself. Upper teen, adult. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 April | 2/2/2014

    " This was a fantastic read! It was well-told, an interesting era, interesting characters both real and imagined. I loved learning about Uraniborg and Tycho Brahe, who I only vaguely remember from taking an astronomy class years ago. I loved watching Jepp figure out who he really is and who he wants to be. Parts made me tear up, parts made me really happy, and the whole book left me thinking about it for days. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jenn | 1/31/2014

    " Great subject matter and message, but the plot line didn't pull me forward. Probably wouldn't have finished it if I wasn't on "spring break". "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Beth | 1/21/2014

    " I never was a fan of historical fiction, so perhaps it's not a surprise that I couldn't get through Jepp, Who Defied the Stars. The book design is beautiful but I found the actual writing to be stilted and uncertain, and the theme of fate a bit too overt and clumsily handled. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ashley | 1/8/2014

    " Interesting work of historical fiction, highlights areas not usually seen in this genre for teens. I really liked this book up until its final act, which I felt mostly unnecessary and uninteresting. Passable audio narration, dropping this down to two stars for me as an audiobook. If this book sounds interesting to you, grab the print version. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Trina | 1/7/2014

    " Good reads win: I really enjoyed the read. I am not a big history type of reader. But if I had more books like this I would so definitely read more. While reading this book I got a feel of reading some of my favorite fairy tales. I would definitely recommend this to everyone. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ananya | 1/2/2014

    " I found it a little two dimensional but overall a very good read for historical fiction lovers! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Kate | 12/10/2013

    " Certainly seems well researched and characters seem well written, but it just didn't grab me. After reading for more than 2 weeks and only getting a third of the way in, I decided that was enough. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Katy | 11/29/2013

    " Wonderful read. Unique narrator and hero, great story and enjoyed the historical detail and period. And in the end - inspiring. Our 'fate' is in our own hands. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Megan | 11/29/2013

    " Loved it! The time period was fun to read about with an interesting and unique protagonist. It's perfect to use with my 7th graders to bridge the Renaissance time period we study in history to the character study unit in English. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Alice | 10/24/2013

    " Boring. The protagonist's problem eludes us, and he does not seem to take control, truly. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Longbeverly | 10/14/2013

    " I did not get much out of this book. I like historical fiction, but I guess I need the events to be more well known? I read the beginning and the end, and I just couldn't get interested in it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kaelyn | 4/18/2013

    " The book seemed alright but it didn't really give me a pull, like some other books do. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lindsay | 3/22/2013

    " A good story but rather slow. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Virginia | 3/14/2013

    " Jepp is a teenage dwarf living in 16th century Spanish-occupied Holland. He is taken to the court of the Spanish infanta and is later sent to the home and workshop of Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer. His odyssey includes a quest for his own identity and true love. Terrific historical fiction. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kalen | 10/14/2012

    " The ending felt a little rushed, especially considering the slow pace of the rest of the story, but overall this was a very good book. Interesting historical details are interwoven with Jepp's story in a way that almost feels like fantasy. The characters really bring the whole thing to life. "

About the Author

Katherine Marsh was formerly the managing editor of the New Republic, senior editor at Washington City Paper, and contributing editor at Rolling Stone. Her work has also appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Her books have been featured and praised in USA Today, New York magazine, the New York Times, and Washingtonian. She has written two other young adult novels, The Night Tourist and The Twilight Prisoner. Universal Studios optioned The Night Tourist, which also won the Edgar Award for best juvenile mystery.

About the Narrator

R. C. Bray is an award-winning audiobook narrator with over 180 titles to his credit. Besides winning five AudioFile Earphones Awards, he won the prestigious Audie Award in 2015 for Best Science Fiction Narration and has been an Audie Award finalist seven times. He has been a finalist for the Voice Arts Award, and in 2014, his narration earned a Publishers Weekly Listen-Up Award. He is also an accomplished producer and voice-over artist, and his voice can be heard in countless TV and radio commercials.