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A Hat Full of Sky
Terry Pratchett
HarperCollins, 288 pages

Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett lives in Somerset, England, where he spends all his time, and more, writing his rigorously naturalistic, curiously entertaining, shamelessly popular Discworld novels which have earned him extravagant acclaim and puzzled stares from millions of readers around the world.

SF Site Reading List: Terry Pratchett
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Terry Pratchett's Discworld Collector's Edition 2005
SF Site Review: Terry Pratchett's Discworld Collector's Edition 2005
SF Site Review: Going Postal
SF Site Review: Monstrous Regiment
SF Site Review: The Wee Free Men
SF Site Review: The New Discworld Companion
SF Site Review: Night Watch
SF Site Review: The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents
SF Site Review: Thief of Time
SF Site Review: Nanny Ogg's Cookbook
SF Site Review: The Truth
SF Site Review: City Watch Trilogy
SF Site Review: The Fifth Elephant
SF Site Review: The Discworld Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000
SF Site Review: The Science of Discworld
SF Site Review: The Last Continent
SF Site Review: Hogfather
SF Site Review: Jingo
SF Site Review: Feet of Clay
SF Site Review: Maskerade
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Charlene Brusso

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A Hat Full of Sky This is the sequel to Terry Pratchett's marvelous The Wee Free Men, continuing the adventures of young witch Tiffany Aching and the irascible Nac Mac Feegle, "most dangerous of the fairy races, particularly when drunk." Ignore the fact that the publisher has chosen to package this series strictly as a children's work. Readers of any age will discover plenty here that is cogent and entertaining. At nine, Tiffany (granddaughter of famous local witch and sheep expert Granny Aching) became, briefly, the Kelda of the "Pictsie" Nac Mac Feegle, rescued her little brother and Roland, the local Baron's son, from the Queen of the Fairies, and earned the notice of Mistress Weatherwax (yes, that Mistress Weatherwax), a legendary figure among both witches and mortals. Now eleven, Tiffany is ready to leave the Chalk to study with Miss Level, a "research witch" in distant High Overhang.

Changes are in the offing for the Nac Mac Feegle as well. Their new Kelda, Jeanine of the Long Lake clan, is determined to whip the wild blue men into shape. First off, they must learn to read and write -- despite their lifelong distrust of the literary arts. After all, writing leads to implicating documents and court cases, both of which have a way of seriously cramping a Feegle's style. As the Pictsie leader, Rob Anybody, notes, "A word writ doon can hang a man. Words stay."

Jeanine's plans are interrupted when the Pictsies realize a demon called a hiver -- attracted by Tiffany's magical power -- is stalking her. Jeanine sends Rob and his merry men off to protect their "wee big hag".

Meanwhile Tiffany is thoroughly disillusioned and frustrated under Miss Level's tutelage. They spend hours every day tending to the mundane needs of the local peasantry, and on her own, away from the Chalk, Tiffany can't seem to get even the most basic spells to work. Worse yet, the other local student witches believe she's a liar and a bumpkin.

Then the hiver catches Tiffany when she briefly steps out of her body and possesses her. Its arrogance combined with Tiffany's power take her over the edge, what witches call "going to the bad. It was too easy to slip into careless little cruelties because you had power and other people didn't, too easy to think other people didn't matter much, too easy to think that ideas like right and wrong didn't apply to you."

Wielding Tiffany's ambition as a weapon, the hiver and she make for a formidable witch, one who may only be tamed by the joined forces of the Pictsies and Granny Weatherwax.

As usual Pratchett gives us an entertaining story with plenty of sharp observations on human nature. Consider this novel a powerful antidote to those doorstop-sized fantasies of evil wizards, hesitant heroes, and empires in turmoil. Pratchett's greatest skill, after his immense ability to create unique and memorable characters, is the way he uncovers the magic in the mundane. By bringing magic down to the grass roots level, he makes it more convincing, and more believable, than any grand scale epic.

Although Pratchett is widely known and respected in the UK, his popularity here in the States still lags -- hopefully this series will earn him the attention he deserves.

Copyright © 2005 Charlene Brusso

Charlene's sixth grade teacher told her she would burn her eyes out before she was 30 if she kept reading and writing so much. Fortunately he was wrong. Her work has also appeared in Aboriginal SF, Amazing Stories, Dark Regions, MZB's Fantasy Magazine, and other genre magazines.


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