First published in 2004 and set on the Discworld, "A Hat Full of Sky" is the sequel to "The Wee Free Men" and sees Tiffany Aching return as the book's heroine. Tiffany, now eleven years old, has been brought up on a farm in an area on the Chalk. She has six older sisters, one younger brother, wields a mean frying pan, is very good with cheese and has already impressed the Discworld's greatest witch. Granny Aching, who dies when Tiffany was seven, continues to be a big influence on her grand-daughter. Granny was a shepherdess, very fond of Jolly Sailor tobacco and - Tiffany is convinced - a witch. Remembering how Granny said it was important to stand up for those who have no voice, Tiffany has decided she wants to follow in her footsteps.
The book also features an exceptionally rowdy, and thoroughly entertaining, bunch of fairies. The Wee Free Men, we also known as the Nac Mac Feegle, are a Pictsie race who were thrown out of Fairyland for being drunk, disorderly and rebellious. They are covered in tattoos, have red hair and blue skin and wear little other thank kilts and swords. An extremely fast and strong race, they are fond of fighting, stealing and drinking - Granny Aching's Special Sheep Liniment is a particular favorite. There have been a few changes since "The Wee Free Men", however. The clan now has a new gonnagle, Awf'ly Wee Billy Bigchin Mac Feegle, and a new Kelda, Jeannie of the Long Lake. Jeannie, as tradition demands, has married the Big Man o' the Clan, Rob Anybody Feegle. She is also responsible for possibly the biggest change of them all. The Nac Mac Feegle had once been afraid of reading and writing, believing it to be a dangerous type of magic. Jeannie now wants the clan, beginning with Rob Anybody, to learn how to read and write. For a while during "The Wee Free Men", however, Tiffany was the clan's temporary Kelda - as a result, they have never forgotten her and still try to protect her. It also means that Jeannie doesn't like or trust the young hag at all.
As the book opens, Tiffany is leaving the Chalk for a spell (boom boom !). She's been apprenticed to Miss Level, a very peculiar research witch but clearly with some talent. (Miss Level's cottage is also home to Oswald, a kind of anti-poltergeist : instead of messing things up, he's obsessively tidy). Tiffany travels to Miss Level's with Miss Tick : unknown to either of then, however, they are being followed by a hiver. This is a type of demon without a body, brain or shape of its own. Instead, they search for and take refuge in bodies of great power - and this particular hiver has targeted Tiffany. Tiffany has inadvertently learnt how to 'borrow', a trick which leaves her own body unattended. Unfortunately, this will makes things easier for the hiver to take up residence. Luckily, the Wee Free Men want to follow and protect her - if they can convince their new Kelda it's a good idea.
Like everything else I've read by Pratchett, this is an excellent book. It's easily read, features plenty of likeable characters and there are plenty of laughs. Although I would recommend reading "The Wee Free Men" before this instalment "A Hat Full of Sky" is definitely recommended !
on 19 May 2005
Noble values sewn into a captivating story.
This is the second book in the Tiffany Aching series (after The Wee Free Men and before at least a couple more with the tentative titles of Wintersmith and When I Am Old I Shall Wear Midnight).
Tiffany is now eleven, two years have passed since the events of The Wee Free Men and the incident with the Fairy Queen. She's learnt a few tricks since then, like the ability to step out of her own body, which is actually very handy when your only mirror is too small and you want to check if your hair is well combed at the back of your head. Although she likes wearing that invisible hat Mistress Weatherwax gave her.
Now Miss Tick the witch is bringing her to the mountains, to Miss Level's cottage to be more precise, an old witch with two bodies, where she shall begin her apprenticeship.
Her news friends, the other witches' apprentices, and especially Annagramma Hawkin, mock her because she's only good at sheep and cheese, and Miss Level only helps old people or acts as a midwife and she's not even doing proper magic, and of course Tiffany's not even wearing proper witch clothes with stars and sequins, let alone a real witch hat. In the end, Tiffany's apprenticeship turns out to be not exactly what she expected, but much, much more.
And all that time, the little blue fairy men, the Nac Mac Feegle, are watching over her. And what they find out is that an evil spirit, a Hiver, is pursuing Tiffany, waiting to take up her body the next time she steps out of it. Rob Anybody and his mates set out to help her.
I really really love the Tiffany Aching books. In them, and probably because they're aimed at a younger audience, Terry Pratchett manages to philosophize in a much more accessible and discreet manner than in his lastest (adult) Discworld books (like Thief of Time). The values he teaches here, through the relationship between people, or between people and the land, are very noble ones, and they're seemlessly sewn into a storyline that is in itself very captivating, and of course very funny. I really really love the Tiffany Aching books.
on 1 June 2005
This is another book in Terry Pratchett's series on the Discworld - a flat world, supported on the backs of four massive elephants riding on the back of a planet-sized turtle, anything hilarious can happen here, and eventually does.
In this sequel to The Wee Free Men, young Tiffany Aching begins her apprenticeship in witchcraft. However, her activities have attracted the attention of a disembodied spirit, an unkillable spirit that wants to take Tiffany over, body and soul. Tiffany's meager training has not given her everything she needs to defeat this invincible opponent, but with her native talent and pluck, plus the help of some good friends, it might just be enough.
This is another *great* Terry Pratchett book, perhaps the best that he has created in years! I enjoyed the new and fascinating characters that Terry includes in this story, plus the return of Granny Weatherwax and the wonderful Nac Mac Feegle (little blue pictsies who can outdrink and outfight just about anyone and anything). Plus, the setting is great, and the story is incomparable. If you are a fan of humorous fantasy, then you must read this novel by the king of them all, Terry Pratchett!
on 2 May 2004
The third of Terry Pratchett's Discworld stories to be aimed at a younger audience (the other's were The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, and The Wee Free Men), A Hat Full of Sky proves to be an absolute delight to read. What's even better is that as a 21 year old fan of the Discworld novels I probably got more enjoyment from reading this than a kid would.
All the ingredients are here for a great Discworld story, but in a condensed, simpler form. Following on from The Wee Free Men, this book again stars eleven year old witch-in-training Tiffany Aching and the band of faires that help her, the Nac Mac Feegle. Mind you, these aren't you're ordinary faries. These are like a band of smurf-like Bravehearts, complete with thick scottish accents (which are a delight to read out loud) and a desire to fight everything that moves and a lot of stuff that doesn't.
Tiffany, moving away from the place where she lived, goes to learn from Miss Level, a witch with a very perculiar ability, even for a witch. But, something is moving with her, following her. An evil force intent on taking control of her body. And the Nac Mac Feegle, who fear nothing, are afraid of it. Probably because it hasn't got anything that they can deliver a good kicking to. The story moves along nicely, and is full of great touches. And, as a fan of the series, it was great to see Granny Weatherwax is still going strong, and taking a shining to young Tiffany - who could very possibly become a greater witch than even the legendary Granny Weatherwax.
I would strongly recommend this to any reader, young or old, who understands the value of a good story.
on 27 April 2004
Bought on Friday, my wife read it on Saturday and I finished on the Sunday- a great book. Life, death, parting, belonging, witches and... sheep;what more could you want from a book?
A brilliant follow up to The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky follows theprogress of Tiffany Aching in her far from straightforward travels tobecoming a Discworld witch.
Just when I thought Terry Pratchett had lost his touch with The MonstrousRegioment he produces a book which whill have you laughing, crying andreflecting on childhood in the space of a few pages. This is storytellingat its most timeless and enduring.
on 3 September 2005
This is another excellent book from Terry Pratchett, although it does contain some slightly dodgy language (thinly disguised as Scots dialect). It has a gripping storyline, but the humour may be somewhat too adult for children below Year 6. I thoroughly enjoyed it-it's very tongue-in-cheek and, although long, would make a good read-aloud book (if you can do the accent!)
At a mere eleven years old, Tiffany Aching has won a war and lost a gran. She's killed the "Quin" of the Faeries - with a skillet! Her grandmother, a woman of Power, was a subtle force among the Chalk Downs shepherd community. With such a background, it's inevitable that she is destined for an interesting life. She's already been a kelda to the Nac Mac Feegles - the pictsies who scutter among the barns and bushes of the local farms. Now, she's been selected by the doyenne of the Ramtops' witches, Mistress Weatherwax, to be trained in The Craft.
Tiffany's clearly inherited some of her gran's Power, but is too young to understand or cope with it. Something else wants that Power. The hiver is a formless thing constantly seeking minds to inhabit. While not truly evil, its effect is deadly. It's inhabited Tyrannosaurs, sabre-toothed tigers and wizards. Yet it's still not sated. Tiffany's young, untested and vulnerable mind seems an ideal roost for the hiver. Thus, the story, told as only Pratchett can relate it, becomes a contest of wills - Tiffany's, the hiver, her mentor, Nac Mac Feegle and all.
So, is this just another simple fantasy about witchcraft and the eternal struggle between "good" and "evil" - a dark versus light dichotomy? Not in Pratchett's knowledgeable hands. The Feegle, Tiffany's staunch allies, are thieves and boozers, in strife with anything that moves. Miss Level, Tiffany's assigned trainer, leads a double life - and more than one of those. The Chalk Downs aren't just white rocky paddocks - they bear a history of life reaching millions of years in the past. Part of the Power is understanding that heritage, and perhaps putting it to use. And just why was the Uffington White Horse carved on a hillside so that can't be seen clearly until you're above it? And why is the carving in parts instead of a complete rendition? Um . . . and is it really a cat? Pratchett's ability to challenge the reader instead of merely being entertaining is unexcelled. This book is a prime example.
Tiffany's confrontation with the hiver reveals its hidden origins. They are as remote as Time itself. While the hiver enters but one mind at a time, it represents an aspect of all living things. Pratchett's resolution of the hiver's invasion of the young witch's mind is superbly crafted. But the story doesn't end with that denouement. Tiffany must attend on Granny Weatherwax, who initiated this situation. In this finale, Pratchett draws one of the most glorious passages of his career. Esme Weatherwax can Borrow - entering the minds of creatures more subtly than the hiver's occupation. Is it her in the swarm of bees Tiffany encounters? Or have they collectively responded to the presence of so powerful a witch? Whatever the cause, Tiffany and the swarm perform a dance - of victory? of acceptance? or just for the pleasure of it?
With his superb style - a recipe of mirth, pathos, philosophy and irony, Pratchett has again shared his genius with us. All of us. As many have noted, putting a "readers' age" restriction on this book is a flawed limitaton. Pratchett, in whatever he writes, is unaged and ageless. Adults and children alike will find entertainment and value here. The best approach, in this reviewer's opinion, is for adults to buy this book and read it aloud - to anybody. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
** with humble apologies and thanks to Michael Blake
on 18 January 2006
This is one of Terry Pratchett's best. It is described as a children's, or young adult's, book - which, undoubtedly, it is. But while it is eminently readable from about eight years upwards, it needs no apologies for adults. This is the first of Terry's juveniles which can stand as an equal of his adult books.
That said, it won't please everybody. It is far more about people interacting and the conflicts between their individual characters than it is about magical people and strange monsters. Yes, there is magic in the book, and some magical creatures (one of which, Oswald, is the most original magical creation I have come across for a long time). But they are the background against which Tiffany Aching solves her problems and continues to learn how to be a witch. There a few classic Pratchettian laughs, bur mostly you turn the pages wanting to know how Tiffany will solve the problem before her. Fans of Rincewind won't like it, fans of Granny Weatherwas will.
on 14 September 2004
This is an excellent follow-up to the Wee Free Men and very difficult to put down once you have started it. Some of the Scottish language was a wee bit wrong - but not a bad attempt for a southerner. This book also contains in my opinion the funniest single scene in all of the Pratchett books - I laughed so much that I cried - Rob Anybody should be feared by all, including Death!
The previous Pratchett book staring Tiffany Aching, `The Wee Free Men', was an absorbing and entertaining read but this second book in the series is simply another degree of excellence above its predecessor. In this book Tiffany is now eleven and is leaving home for the first time in order to learn what it means to be a witch. Travelling to the mountains she stays with the research witch Miss Level but a creature from the dawn of time is stalking her and will make life difficult once it catches her.
It has been a long time since I read an entire book in a single day but this one was just so absorbing and entertaining that I just could not put it down. The book is as intelligently written, bringing the characters and scenery to life as effectively if not better than any other Discworld book. The book is also as funny as anything else Terry Pratchett has produced in the last few years. The Nac Mac Feegle, while still important, have something of a reduced role in this book but they are still up to their old tricks and produce some of the most entertaining parts of the story.
If the previous book had a fault it was that it seemed to be somewhat isolated from the rest of the Discworld but thankfully that is put right here with appearances by such Discworld staples as wizards and Death, meaning that the book feels a part of the rest of the series. I cannot help but feel that Terry Pratchett was on top form once again for this book and I feel the final confrontation at the Witch Trials is one of the best sequences that he has ever put to paper. `A Hat Full of Sky' is a brilliant book and is not only my favourite Discworld book but has also stormed strait to the top of my list of all-time favourite books, I just worry that after this the next book in the series `Wintersmith' will not be able to live up to the same standards.