A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
Tiffany is not convinced when her peer Annagramma explains that magic is a power that signals one’s status. In Annagramma’s view, the witches study arcane and obscure subjects in order to set themselves apart from society, and all of the other young witches seem convinced by her reasoning. Tiffany may not admit it, but she is insecure about her status among the young witches. Secretly, she wishes to reveal her power to them. The hiver understands Tiffany, and when it takes over her mind, Tiffany makes her wishes come true.
In A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany travels to join her new mentor, Miss Level. Like all old witches, Miss Level is a unique sort. She has two bodies, and a spirit named Oswald cleans up around her cottage. Miss Level may be strange, but she has a kind heart, and she takes care of her villagers. Tiffany’s lessons are going well, though she does not like to wear black, she hates to ride a broomstick, and she struggles to make a shamble. Actually, Tiffany’s teachers are impressed with her, but her peers have begun to question her abilities.
Still, Tiffany has caught the attention of one of Terry Pratchett’s most popular characters, Granny Weatherwax. She has unfortunately also caught the attention of the hiver, a magical creature that takes over the mind of its host. It does not take long before the hiver has overpowered Tiffany, and under its control she goes on a rampage. Tiffany is able to escape the hiver’s control thanks to the intervention of the Nac Mac Feegles. Afterward, Tiffany realizes that she has to take responsibility for her reckless actions before she and Granny Weatherwax can seek out and confront the hiver.
Tiffany remains an admirable character and Terry Pratchett’s writing is, as always, natural and easy to read. Pratchett has a knack for balancing light-hearted banter with touching themes. In fact, the way Pratchett explores themes of self-realization and responsibility here are likely to please both young adult readers and their parents. Nevertheless, A Hat Full of Sky feels uneven compared to Pratchett’s best work. The Nac Mac Feegles appear, but there’s very little room for them in the plot. While the hiver seems like a promising antagonist (the way that Tiffany resolves the conflict he presents is especially interesting*), only a little of his personality is revealed before his final confrontation with Tiffany. It’s unfortunate, since the hiver might have become one of Pratchett’s most memorable villains if he were given more space.
A Hat Full of Sky is the 32nd DISCWORLD novel and the second to feature Tiffany Aching as its protagonist. Although I preferred both The Wee Free Men and Wintersmith, Tiffany seems to have vaulted ahead of Pratchett’s other protagonists. Even when her stories don’t come together as well as a shamble should, they remain illuminating and charming.
I listened to HarpoChildren’s Audio’s production of A Hat Full of Sky, which was performed by Stephen Briggs. As always, Briggs offers a wonderful reading that I confidently recommend.
*Spoiler, highlight if you want to read it: Tiffany discovers that the hiver longs to die. It takes over the minds of people in order to escape from its own existence. Tiffany decides to assist in the hiver’s death. Readers can click here to learn more about Terry Pratchett’s views on assisted dying.
Discworld — (1983-2015) Discworld is a satirical fantasy world created by Terry Pratchett to poke fun at 1980s fantasy novels. Since then, they’ve evolved so that they now make fun of everything. Mr. Pratchett explains Discworld: “The world rides through space on the back of a turtle. This is one of the great ancient world myths, found wherever men and turtles are gathered together; the four elephants were an indo-European sophistication. The idea has been lying in the lumber room of legend for centuries. All I had to do was grab it and run away before the alarms went off… There are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.” The Discworld novels are presented here in publication order. To read more about the Discworld “arcs” and reading order, see this Wikipedia article.
Discworld for Kids:
Personally I think that if there had been more hiver it would have been that much closer to the feel of a horror story and away from the atmosphere he wanted in addition to the fact that the story is Tiffany’s and too much hiver would have taken away that focus.
The Tiffany Aching books all delve deep into serious themes and the core of each of them is Tiffany’s learning process – and how she learns is not nearly as important as that she does learn and realizes that she is learning and that it is important to do so.
“…I think that if there had been more hiver it would have been that much closer to the feel of a horror story…”
You may be right, April, though I do think the hiver had the potential to become quite an interesting antagonist. I did notice while reading that I preferred Wee Free Men because it had more Feegles and Wintersmith because it had more Feegles and because its villain was given more consideration. I agree that the lessons Tiffany learns are at the heart of this series.