With the recent release of The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett’s final discworld novel following his death earlier in 2015, we’re playing catch-up on the Tiffany Aching series and the first on the list is A Hat Full Of Sky. It’s the second of the five books, following up on 2003’s The Wee Free Men, and it’s another genius Discworld novel from the great fantasy fiction author, weaving together an endearing second outing for the young witch.
Released in hardback in 2004, before going to arrive in paperback the following year, A Hat Full Of Sky takes place two years after the events that took place in The Wee Free Men, which saw her taking on the Queen Of The Fairies. Now 11 years old, she’s a little more experienced as a witch, but in the second story in the series she faces a seemingly unstoppable force in the mind steeling grip of a Hiver.
It’s a daunting figure from the dawn of time itself with an unquenchable thirst for a powerful host mind to take over and when it locks itself on Miss Aching it makes for an impressively sinister opponent. However, luckily, and brilliantly, Tiffany is never really alone as she has the little blue faced, kilt wearing tribe of the Nac Mac Feagle guarding her back, and more than a few capable witches in her corner, including the indomitable force of Nanny Weatherwax.
It’s a lot of fun picking up with so many much loved characters again and the story is a sweeping adventure of yet more coming of age charm, making it an addictive read. It’s packed with the kind of wit, humour and fantastical adventure that we’ve come to expect from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels, and it reinforces the need to catch up in time to be able to read the latest novel, The Shepherd’s Crown.
It does a lot to develop the central character as she leaves The Chalk – the land she’s known and been a part of all her life – to start her training with an unusual witch called Miss Level, an arrangement that Miss Tick has organised for Tiffany. Finding her feet in unfamiliar surroundings, she faces a lot of challenges, from the humdrum everyday life of being a witch to the difficulties of trying to make new friends, pushing her far outside her comfort zone and testing her first, second and third thought to the extremes.
The presence of the Nac Mac Feagle is always welcome in our book and they’re as mental, funny and ferociously loyal as ever. They’re added to by the introduction of the multi-bodied Miss Level, who also has a lot of good comedy moments. The rest of the witches are the bedrocks of the story, as ever, with yet more stoic wisdom and serious glares from Miss Tick and Nanny Weatherwax.
The creation of the Hiver as the main antagonist of the book is an excellent piece of imagination as its builds just enough dread to raise tension in the fantastical setting of the Disc’s heartland. It stalks like a big cat, hovers like a sinister shadow and crushes like a vice when it finally gets hold of its prey and it makes for a very strong dark force at the centre of the adventure.
A Hat Full Of Sky is a faultless fantasy adventure and while it’s ostensibly a work of young adult fiction, Discworld fans of any age will fall in love with its exceptionally well threaded storyline. It’s one of Terry Pratchett’s best pieces of work, which is no mean feat with so many great books in his back catalogue, and it sets things up very well for the third book in the series, Wintersmith.
Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full Of Sky review: 5/5