One can only admire what must be going on in an author's mind to create stories like A HAT FULL OF SKY! Tiffany Aching, young heroine of The WEE FREE MEN, is back capturing the attention of young and older readers alike. Terry Pratchett has woven a new thread into the Discworld, adding a refreshing, new dimension to the already rich collection of characters, landscapes and goings-on. The Chalk, home of the Achings, is a remote rural region, far away from the bustle of Ank Morpork. The soft rolling hills, evolved in ancient times from the seas of the ages, are part of an area where reality meets magic…
While Tiffany, now 11, has been cautiously applying her special skills, inherited from her much-loved granny, she does not really understand what they mean and how to apply them. It is time to *learn * the witching business properly. With the help of Miss Tick, the headhunter for young witches, she leaves her beloved Chalk to take up "service" with an experienced witch, the complex Miss Level. Contrary to common assumptions that young witches might learn to fly on a broomstick or concoct magical potions, Tiffany's new life can only be described as tiresome and tedious… Her chores have more in common with a nurse's training as she follows Miss Level to attend to the old, sick and lonely. While she is much appreciated by their charges, Tiffany has a more challenging time to fit in with her fellow witches' apprentices. The trials and tribulations of the witches' teenage years are no different from those of "normal" girls: vanity, jealousy, peer pressure. Pratchett has a wonderful, sensitive touch when characterizing this motley group. Tiffany's search and acceptance of her own, real *hat * and the hat itself are wonderful metaphors for her coming of witch-age.
Tiffany has several magical talents. With telling herself "see me" and "see me not" she can step out of her body to observe her surroundings undetected. She also has the capacity for "third thoughts". Those are thoughts that "watch the world" and "think by themselves". They have helped Tiffany in her fight with the Queen of the Fairies in WEE FREE MEN. But they also can be trouble. Combined, these talents can also prove dangerous. The Nac Mac Feegle, the funny wild bunch of tiny blue men, a special kind of fairies, are the first who realize that danger is brewing for Tiffany. The hiver, an ancient entity that cannot die and moves from host to host, to absorb their minds, has set its ambitions on Tiffany. She would be an ideal candidate to be taken over… Ron Anybody and his brothers, have a special bond with the young girl, the "big wee hag". Their adventures are always hilarious, yet their efforts to protect Tiffany and to reach her before the hiver does is one of those gems that will stay in the mind of the reader. Mistress Weatherwax, the most revered of the old witches, is well known to Pratchett fans. Yet, in her attempt to support and protect Tiffany, new sides of her personality are revealed. The confrontation with the hiver, while unavoidable, develops in unexpected ways.
A HAT FULL OF SKY is a delight of a story, for readers with a young mind, whatever their actual age. As Pratchett fans have come to expect, it is filled with good humour, imaginative witticisms and magic fantasy and, at the same time, with deep understanding and empathy for the foibles of humans and other beings. [Friederike Knabe]