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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2006
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 !
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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!
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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!)
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I'm a recent convert to Pratchett, having not liked a couple of earlier Discworld novels. You don't have to know a thing about the universe he's created, but you should read The Wee Free Men first to enjoy this book - though it stands up on its own.
Tiffany Aching is a young witch who has already defeated the Queen of Fairyland (in Pratchett, a grim grey place parasitical on reality)is now 11 and needs to learn some spells. She leaves her beloved farm, and the Nac Mac Feegle clan - tiny blue men of supernatural strength and speed who are not pixies but pictsies. Imagine a Scottish football crowd at its most drunken and heroic, and you'll get the picture. Luckily, they keep an eye on her, and when an ancient evil tries to steal her body and take her place, they mount a rescue mission - slightly delayed by brawls, booze and the inability to ride a broomstick.
What makes Pratchett brilliant is the way he mixes comic fantasy with a real playfulness and passion for language. I laughed and laughed. Perfect for 9+
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on 19 May 2005
I've often wondered, and now I know - Mr Pratchett knows real witches...although we largely call ourselves Pagans these days.
This book may be aimed at kids, it may be fantasy set in the made-up Discworld, and it may involve small blue kilt-wearing 'fairies' that like a fight and can't resist a dram, but as with every one of Pratchett's books, he has done his research before writing this latest parody of witches.
Tiffany Aching is learning to be a witch, after the first book about her where she discovered she has 'power'. And every real witch's favourite witch - Granny Weatherwax - is on hand to guide her. I've been hanging around with self-styled witches for a few years now and Pratchett captures all the stereotypes and all the foibles with an insider's humour (as he has with all the subjects he has sent up in previous books). From the black clad goth-witch groaning with amulets, to the wisewoman who cares about the needy, and then Tiffany, the beginner witch who has more power than know-how - all the familiar types are here, plus a better description of what a 'real' witch is in one of Granny Weatherwax's diatribes, than I've seen in any serious book on witchcraft. Not to forget all the usual Pratchett one-liners, humourous footnotes and fast paced storyline.
I shall be buying this book for all my Pagan friends.
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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.
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on 17 August 2005
Tiffany Aching returns and is about to start some proper training as a witch. Unfortunately she has been targeted by a Hiver, a nasty entity as old as the universe and unkillable. The Nac Mac Feegle become aware of the Hiver and eventually the small blue men are on their way to the rescue.
Tiffany begins her training unaware that the Hiver is after her. Eventually all the plot threads come together with great humour until the whole thing winds up in a very satisfactory manner.
Terry Pratchett has produced yet another wonderful book written with his usual wit. If you like that sort of thing then this would be right up your street.
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