Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Review: A Hat Full of Sky, Terry Pratchett

A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld #32) (Tiffany Aching #2)

Terry Pratchett

Doubleday, 2004

A real witch never casually steps out of her body, leaving it empty. Eleven-year-old Tiffany does. And there's something just waiting for a handy body to take over. Something ancient and horrible, which can't die...

Wise, witty and wonderful, A Hat Full of Sky is Terry Pratchett's second novel about Tiffany and the Wee Free Men - the rowdiest, toughest, smelliest bunch of fairies ever. They'll fight anything. But even they might not be enough to save Tiffany...

Tiffany Aching is an eleven year old witch, and for the first time ever she's leaving her home on the Chalk and heading for parts unknown. The Chalk is what Tiffany knows - it's where she feels safe, and it's where her Granny Aching lived and worked and watched over the land, until it was part of her and she was part of it. But now Granny Aching is gone, Tiffany is off to learn what it means to be a witch. Miss Tick takes Tiffany to stay with Miss Level, and what starts out as the more boring side of "hagglin'" - cutting toenails, making tea, giving people baths - soon turns a lot more sinister.

Tiffany is a wonderful character, and one I wish I'd have known when I was growing up. A Hat Full of Sky is full of excellent female characters - not infallible, but believable and strong and interesting. The book continues on from The Wee Free Men, and expands on one of the things I found most interesting in that novel: the lives of the witches. Witches in this world aren't there to be flashy and cast grand spells. Instead, they're there to offer medical attention and guidance and teaching. As Tiffany discovers, witchcraft is really just about offering help without expecting anything in return (except maybe a few biscuits).

Miss Level - who has the unusual condition of being one person in two bodies - was very funny, along with Oswald. Witches like Miss Level and Mistress Weatherwax have very little time for flashy witches with their ostentatious hats and cloaks and their fancy wands, and there are more than a few swipes at witches who are more interested in the jewellery than with helping people out. 

The main plot was less interesting, I found, even though it does allow for the return of the Nac Mac Feegle, a band of blue-skinned, red-haired pictsies whose aim is to help Tiffany fight... whatever it is she's fighting (they're not sure, but they'll give it a good kicking anyway). The book is full of funny lines and sly jokes - everything you would expect from Pratchett - and Tiffany's journey to discover the witch within herself was really the best aspect of the book for me. Perhaps worth it alone for Mistress Weatherwax's sage advice (and Rob Anybody's new-found skill of reading...).

Overall rating: 6/10

Book source: Borrowed from the library.

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