A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett
Published: 2004, Doubleday
Series: Discworld, Book 2 of the Tiffany Aching series
Awards Won: Locus YA award
“Something is coming after Tiffany ...
Tiffany Aching is ready to begin her apprenticeship in magic. She expects spells and magic -- not chores and ill-tempered nanny goats! Surely there must be more to witchcraft than this!
What Tiffany doesn't know is that an insidious, disembodied creature is pursuing her. This time, neither Mistress Weatherwax (the greatest witch in the world) nor the fierce, six-inch-high Wee Free Men can protect her. In the end, it will take all of Tiffany's inner strength to save herself ... if it can be done at all.” ~WWEnd.com
This is the second of Pratchett’s YA series featuring Tiffany Aching, which has been the subject of a read-along hosted by Little RedReviewer and Dab of Darkness. I’m also counting this as my first fantasy novel for Stainless Steel Dropping’s Once Upon a Time VII. While this novel clearly follows from The Wee Free Men, I think it could also stand alone fairly well as an independent novel.
A Hat Full of Sky picks up a few years after the events of The Wee Free Men, as Tifffany prepares to leave her home on the Chalk to take up an apprenticeship with a witch named Miss Level. The novel makes a point to re-introduce the relevant events and characters from the previous book, so the sequel is still accessible to new readers. Having just read the first book, I was at times impatient about the recapping, though I did appreciate that the events of the previous novel continued to affect the characters. Tiffany is still an excellent heroine, though she appears to be growing out of the confidence of childhood and into the uncertainty of adolescence.
Tiffany is now eleven, and in a mundane sense, she encounters problems that are likely to be especially relevant to readers of her age. For instance, Tiffany and others in the novel struggle with homesickness, loneliness, and being mocked by their peers. Tiffany had to cope with her new surroundings, as well as the presence of other young witches, and another part of the book focused on the difficiulties the new kelda of the Chalk’s clan of Wee Free Men has adjusting to her position. Though the details are fantasy, I think some of the basic difficulties both Tiffany and the new kelda face would be easily recognizable for any kid who ends up having to move to a new home.
Another important theme of the book is the difference between what things (and people) appear to be as opposed to what they are. A giant horse carving in the Chalk serves as a metaphor for this. Though it doesn’t look much like a proper horse, it represents the essence of the actions that make a horse—or as Tiffany’s Granny Aching put it, “T’aint what a horse looks like. It’s what a horse be.” This distinction between appearance and works plays out in various situations in the witch community, and Tiffany finds that public image often has very little to do with a person’s worth.
With all of this, the story is still humorous, fast-paced, and easy to read. The Wee Free Men appear again, along with all their usual kinds of ridiculous hijinks, in addition to a number of new characters. While I felt like there was more use of magic in this novel than the first, the job of being a witch is clearly not defined solely by magic. In her apprenticeship to Miss Level, Tiffany mostly learns about implicit rules of community and ideas of social responsibility. While magic is important to the final conflict of the story, its importance is secondary to the practitioners’ wisdom and strength of will.
My Rating: 4/5
A Hat Full of Sky is an entertaining sequel to The Wee Free Men, featuring Tiffany Aching as an 11-year-old apprentice witch. It’s another exciting, humorous story targeted towards a younger audience, which also addresses some issues relevant to the age group. There’s a lot of consideration of interpersonal relationships, and of the difference between image and actions. Tiffany is still a great heroine to read about, and I’m enjoying watching as she slowly grows up through these novels.