Science fiction and fantasy                                            

A Hat Full of Sky

by Terry Pratchett


Tiffany Aching's back, and this time she's leaving home to get an education. This Discworld novel follows on from The Wee Free Men which introduced Tiffany as the young witch from the chalk downs who took on the Queen of the Fairies armed with only a frying pan.

Tiffany leaves home accompanied by Miss Tick to go and study with the unusual Miss Level. Only there doesn't seem to be much evidence of Tiffany's talents in witchcraft, in spite of what she has already achieved. She can't even make a shamble, and about the only thing she can do successfully is step outside her body to take a look at herself when there's no mirror handy. Then there's her invisible hat, which makes Tiffany the laughing stock of all the other young witches.

Miss Level seems to be very concerned with helping the sometimes feckless and ungrateful villagers, and Tiffany is learning that being a witch is one of the least glamorous of career choices. Annagramma Hawkin's view is that a witch should look the part, wear the jewellery, and work the sort of magic that looks impressive.

Tiffany's body-vacating trick has attracted the attention of a hiver, an entity without a body or mind which ends up killing everyone whose body it has ever occupied. A hiver can't be killed, and no one has yet survived one. How could Tiffany fight it, if it's in her body?

A book about Tiffany Aching wouldn't be complete without the Nac Mac Feegle, although the rowdy fairies have a lesser role, and they're somewhat subdued by having to learn to read and write. Granny Weatherwax also makes an appearance. There are the usual touches of Pratchett-style humour, although unlike some of his work, here he's not out to satirise any particular target so much as just to tell a story.

A Hat Full of Sky is a good read because Terry Pratchett knows people. His fantasy has always been a reflection of the world we live in rather than an escape from it. Tiffany, with the help of Granny Weatherwax, tackles everything with brains rather than brawn, having the benefits of her second and third thoughts. In A Hat Full of Sky Tiffany is growing into one of Pratchett's best characters, and not simply a younger version of Esme Weatherwax. It's a consistently entertaining book with plenty of careful observations on the importance of substance over style, yet this is writing that has both.

Book Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Books

  YA     Fantasy
  Female Protagonist  

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