by Terry Pratchett



278pp/$16.99/May 2004

A Hat Full of Sky
Cover by Chris Gall

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Tiffany Aching was introduced to the world of literature in Terry Pratchett's recent novel The Wee Free Men.  She makes her return, along with her miniscule supporting cast, in A Hat Full of Sky, which is set three years later when Tiffany leaves the Chalk where she has spent her entire life to go off and learn the craft of witchery from the strange Miss Level, who has been unable to keep her apprentices.

The witch novels in Terry Pratchett's Discworld series have a tendency to revolve around the concept of duty, and A Hat Full of Sky continues in this vein.  Although Tiffany chafes when Miss Level doesn't dive into magic lessons, she slowly learns that the being a witch (at least in Pratchett's world) is mostly about the way she treats other people and tries to make the world a better place.

Even as Tiffany is learning these lessons, however, it becomes clear that she is the target for a hiver, a strange creature which has no corporeal form and cannot be killed which exists by taking over people's bodies.  Building on the lessons Tiffany learned in The Wee Free Men, she realizes that it is her duty to protect the world from the hiver, even at the cost of her own life.

A Hat Full of Sky is filled with a cast of likable (mostly) and fun characters, from the apprentice witch Petulia, who begins every sentence with the word "Um," but is a good-hearted person, to Miss Level, who must deal with being a single person with two bodies.  Pratchett's skill with these characters is such that even if the story weren't gripping (which is it), the reader would still want to learn more about the characters' growth and their interactions with each other.

As with The Wee Free Men and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents, A Hat Full of Sky is being sold as a juvenile novel.  It is, as with those two books, a book which does not speak down to its audience and, therefore, can be read and enjoyed by juveniles of all ages.  Adults might see some more of the humor in the situations and characters than Pratchett's younger readers will, but nobody who reads the book will feel as if they are missing anything Pratchett has to say.

Pratchett has proven time and again that he can say important things in humorous ways, and A Hat Full of Sky is only his latest successful attempt.  Whether his future novels are about the Discworld or not, whether the publishers promote them as juveniles or not, it is safe to say that Pratchett's works are always well worth picking up, reading, and sharing with a friend.

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