Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Hat Full of Sky, by Terry Pratchett

So in my attempt to finish the rest of the Discworld series I am continuing with the Tiffany Aching series with the next installment, A Hat Full of Sky. In this novel Tiffany goes away from her family farm on the Chalk into the mountains to study witching with Miss Level. While Tiffany is learning that witchcraft is about far more than casting spells and riding broomsticks, it turns out that a very powerful creature known as a hiver is after Tiffany. No one's been able to fight off a hiver in the past, but with the help of Granny Weatherwax and the fearsome Nac Mac Feegle Tiffany might be the first.

Overall, I'm actually of mixed opinions of this book. On the one hand, I really liked seeing Tiffany again and seeing her learn what witchcraft is, but on the other hand I felt that this book retrod ground that has been covered before in the Discworld series. A major theme is witchcraft isn't about spells and magic amulets and wands, but about taking care of people when no one else will. While this is a pretty good message, I have to admit that a lot of these issues were covered in previous books like Lords and Ladies. I especially feel that the message that all the magic amulets, circles, and frooh-frah was very well covered in Lords and Ladies and I'm not sure why Pratchett decided to revisit it in this novel. If you're new to the Disc then I can see how this book would be a good introduction to what Discworld witches are really all about (especially for young adults) but for Disc veterans it felt very much like a retrod.

I had some difficulty with the larger plot of this book as well. As I mentioned, Tiffany is being chased by a hiver, a being which is incredibly powerful and no one has ever successfully defeated before. My concern mainly stemmed from Tiffany being one of the most powerful witches of all time which makes her a ripe target for the hiver. While I understand that without that specific threat then the plot would suffer significantly,  I tend to get irritated with various eleven-year-olds being one of the most powerful witch/wizard/ Jedi/whatever evers. I know it's designed to appeal to the target demographic, but I just get so tired of there being so many most powerful evers who aren't old enough to shave. My other issue was kind of with Tiffany being able to (mostly) fight off a hiver through sheer force of will. (Although she had some help as well.) However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Sam Vimes also fought off a possessing demon through sheer willpower alone and so I decided I was okay with Tiffany using willpower to get through as well because it's at least possible within the universe.

If you've read Lords and Ladies I feel like you really could skip A Hat Full of Sky because it doesn't really cover anything that hasn't been covered in that book. If your teenagers are interested in starting reading about the Disc, though, then the Tiffany Aching series is still a great place to start. I definitely recommend you start with The Wee Free Men, though, because it helps to know something about Tiffany before jumping into her adventures.

- Kalpar

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