Apr 26, 2011

[Books] A Hat Full of Sky

A Hat Full of SkyFor any of you that have read my other reviews of Discworld novels, you'd already know that I'm a major fan of the Lancre Witches and their related stories more than anything else in the series. Sure, the stories involving The Watch are pretty fun in their own way and I'll never really come to appreciate the Rincewind novels but the Witches have always been worlds apart from the rest of them. At least that's my take on things.

But we really haven't officially seen the Lancre featured in a major Discworld novel since Carpe Jugulum, which is pretty sad when you think about it. The only glimpses that we get of these crafty little old ladies happens to be in the ongoing Tiffany Aching stories marketed for younger audiences (although not necessarily children - there's a difference).

While initially I ventured into the series since (1) I'll read almost anything with Granny Weatherwax in it, (2) I'm a bit of an OCD completist when it comes to my collections - especially with my books and (3) I still didn't feel like reading the rest of the Rincewind books. However after reading The Wee Free Men, I've found myself falling in love with the young and feisty Tiffany, even if she's constantly surrounded by those darn Nac Mac Feegle.

A Hat Full of Sky is the second book in the Tiffany Aching series of young adult Discworld books and is also the 32nd Discworld novel released. Like all the others, it was written by Sir Terry Pratchett.

Tiffany Aching is now 11 years old at the start of this book and just about to head off to learn proper witchcraft. Unlike wizards, witches prefer more direct one-on-one mentorship as opposed to some sort of a school. Miss Tick eventually picks her up and brings her to Miss Level, who will be her teacher in the ways of witchcraft. Each witch has their unique talents or areas of specialty. For example, Miss Tick is pretty good on locating new witches. Miss Level, well, is able to get a lot done within a single day, in a manner of speaking.

But beyond the start of her supernatural education, Tiffany has a new challenge to face. There's an ancient, rather predatory force at large on the Disc and it has always been attracted to figures of power. And you can't go wrong with a young witch with as much potential as young Tiffany, who carries the land of the Chalk in her head (along with her Second and Third Thoughts).

As generally expected, the book starts off with a lot of mundane and seemingly un-witchlike lessons. Beyond the challenge to Tiffany of trying to make a shamble on her own, there's nothing blatantly magical that goes on in the beginning of the book, but that works out fine for me. After all, the witches in the Discworld books are not the same as the thunder and lightning variety we get in animated movies and fairy tales. They're a lot more subtle and only resort to the use of their magical abilities when they absolutely need to.

LONDON - NOVEMBER 26:  Author Terry Pratchett ...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeI particularly liked how they got around to explaining the unique talents of Miss Level. There could have been a number of far easier ways that Pratchett could have tackled this, but he opted for a more elegant way of describing things. But this is nothing to be surprised at - he's always had a wonderful way with words that keeps things light and comical without sacrificing an excellent mastery of language and an eye for vivid imagery. I won't go as far as saying that she replaces Granny Weatherwax as my favorite witch, but she's definitely going to remain to be one of the more memorable ones.

Tiffany is certainly coming into her own and I love her scenes where she gets to interact directly with Granny Weatherwax. You can clearly tell the two are cut from the same cloth but simply exists in different parts of the timeline. This presents Tiffany with a glimpse of her potential future as a witch, although I'm sure she'll figure out her own unique brand of witchcraft as she comes in to her full potential.

The Feegles weren't too annoying in this book, more likely because they got bit less screen time than in the previous one. The new Kelda certainly helped things in that regard and I look forward to what kind of an effect she might have on the group. After all, she' encouraging them to learn to read and write - unthinkable in traditional Nac Mac Feegle terms.

I really liked the rather heavy concepts explored by the book in terms of the roles that witches play in the Discworld universe. These items alone make me question how well a teenager or pre-teen might understand the content, but then again I know I would have had no problems at that age. So who am I to argue about the targeting of these books, eh?

At the end of the day, A Hat Full of Sky is another great Discworld novel, period. I don't care if they're designed for a younger audience or something - they're great reads and they have a lot for anyone to enjoy regardless of age. The book gets 4 crazy instances of Oswald, the OCD poltergeist, cleaning things up out of a possible 5.

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