The time has come for Tiffany Aching to become a witch. She leaves behind her beloved Chalk to help another witch, Miss Level, becoming an apprentice of sorts as she attempts to learn her new craft. Tiffany is frequently frustrated by her attempts to learn magic, especially her inability to ride a broomstick without being ill and her complete failure at making a shamble. But what she can do is step in and out of her body at will, which she does from time to time. She doesn’t realize, however, that leaving her body unoccupied is dangerous, especially when there’s something just around the corner waiting to seize it.
Following up on my earlier gushing over The Wee Free Men, I’m prepared to gush again about this book. If anything, this was actually better, which, I know, I sort of didn’t think could happen either. Tiffany’s out into the wider world of witches now, which threw a few more wrenches into this tale. She meets a number of other apprentice witches her own age, so we have all the rivalry and jealousy of the early teenage years to contend with, including one nasty witch who is convinced of her own importance and is happiest bullying everyone else around. It was a heartbreaking moment when Tiffany talked about her hat, which Granny Weatherwax gave to her in the previous volume, and no one believed her. I was so hopeful that she’d prove herself in the end and show off what she really could do.
As in the last, there were plenty of moments that were both funny and wise. Pratchett’s brand of humor can almost always coax a smirk out of me if nothing else. In this book the Nac Mac Feegle get a new kelda, but that also means that they lose sight of Tiffany for a short while – typically, just long enough for her to get possessed, at which point they must race to save her, if even they can do so.
What I think I actually preferred about this book was the fact that the plot was much tighter and seemed to have more purpose. There are still sidetracks, and I wouldn’t want it any other way, but there was certainly more tension here, more sense of progression. Tiffany is indeed growing as a witch. It’s incredibly difficult to resist completely falling in love with her and the entire book – and truly there is no point in doing so. I was reminded again and again that, like in many of my favorite stories, Tiffany is an ordinary girl whom extraordinary things happen to. She deals with them as she has to, but she feels like a real person in a variety of charming, human ways that truly seal this book’s appeal for me. I would definitely recommend A Hat Full of Sky to all fantasy fans – but make sure you read The Wee Free Men first.
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