First published in 2004 and set on the Discworld, "A Hat Full of Sky" is the sequel to "The Wee Free Men" and sees Tiffany Aching return as the book's heroine. Tiffany, now eleven years old, has been brought up on a farm in an area on the Chalk. She has six older sisters, one younger brother, wields a mean frying pan, is very good with cheese and has already impressed the Discworld's greatest witch. Granny Aching, who dies when Tiffany was seven, continues to be a big influence on her grand-daughter. Granny was a shepherdess, very fond of Jolly Sailor tobacco and - Tiffany is convinced - a witch. Remembering how Granny said it was important to stand up for those who have no voice, Tiffany has decided she wants to follow in her footsteps.
The book also features an exceptionally rowdy, and thoroughly entertaining, bunch of fairies. The Wee Free Men, we also known as the Nac Mac Feegle, are a Pictsie race who were thrown out of Fairyland for being drunk, disorderly and rebellious. They are covered in tattoos, have red hair and blue skin and wear little other thank kilts and swords. An extremely fast and strong race, they are fond of fighting, stealing and drinking - Granny Aching's Special Sheep Liniment is a particular favorite. There have been a few changes since "The Wee Free Men", however. The clan now has a new gonnagle, Awf'ly Wee Billy Bigchin Mac Feegle, and a new Kelda, Jeannie of the Long Lake. Jeannie, as tradition demands, has married the Big Man o' the Clan, Rob Anybody Feegle. She is also responsible for possibly the biggest change of them all. The Nac Mac Feegle had once been afraid of reading and writing, believing it to be a dangerous type of magic. Jeannie now wants the clan, beginning with Rob Anybody, to learn how to read and write. For a while during "The Wee Free Men", however, Tiffany was the clan's temporary Kelda - as a result, they have never forgotten her and still try to protect her. It also means that Jeannie doesn't like or trust the young hag at all.
As the book opens, Tiffany is leaving the Chalk for a spell (boom boom !). She's been apprenticed to Miss Level, a very peculiar research witch but clearly with some talent. (Miss Level's cottage is also home to Oswald, a kind of anti-poltergeist : instead of messing things up, he's obsessively tidy). Tiffany travels to Miss Level's with Miss Tick : unknown to either of then, however, they are being followed by a hiver. This is a type of demon without a body, brain or shape of its own. Instead, they search for and take refuge in bodies of great power - and this particular hiver has targeted Tiffany. Tiffany has inadvertently learnt how to 'borrow', a trick which leaves her own body unattended. Unfortunately, this will makes things easier for the hiver to take up residence. Luckily, the Wee Free Men want to follow and protect her - if they can convince their new Kelda it's a good idea.
Like everything else I've read by Pratchett, this is an excellent book. It's easily read, features plenty of likeable characters and there are plenty of laughs. Although I would recommend reading "The Wee Free Men" before this instalment "A Hat Full of Sky" is definitely recommended !
Have you ever wrestled with God in an effort to discern his will for your life? If so, I believe you'll benefit immensely from this recent offering by Chuck Swindoll. It has been an invaluable resource for me, because in recent months I have realized that the Lord is calling me away from my career as a lawyer and into full time Christian ministry. Talk about needing to figure out God's will!! This book has no "magic bullets" in it. It can't answer all your questions about where God is leading you. Chuck admits that, and makes no bones about it, in the first pages. But what he offers instead are some solid, practical insights from scripture that should affect our attitude about God's will. He emphasizes God's wonderful attributes, and in particular his sovereignty, to give comfort and hope to those who are confused about the Lord's purpose for their lives. Chuck also firmly yet lovingly reminds how NOT to try to figure out God's will. This is neither rocket science nor witchcraft -- it's pure holy mystery. You can't figure it out by coming in the side door. The overwhelming emphasis is on learning to trust the God who loves us infinitely, and who has our best interests at heart. In other words, God's will is in the journey more than the destination as we walk with him in that relationship of love and trust. I recommend this book very highly for every believer, but especially for anyone who is going through a major crisis of faith in seeking God's will. You won't get hard answers, but you'll get insights that will speak to your heart. Giant thanks to brother Chuck!
Both good and bad happen in our lives and in the lives of others. Why? Can't explain it? Trying to figure out what God is up to? Can we reason using what we know to arrive at a satisfying answer? Excuses and rationalizations lead to frustration, anger at God or increased pride. Swindoll rightly tells us to think Biblically. He calls it reasoning theologically. That is, reason that God is sovereign. Seek his will. Study the Bible. Wait perceptively for His understanding and the Spirit's prompting. Pray earnestly. Listen to wise counsel. Be willing to take risks and be persecuted. Expect God to surprise you. In all, realize that God is working to conform each of us to the image of Christ. God opens and closes doors in the process that causes successful growth toward that purpose. Why specific events happen are a mystery otherwise. As Christians we can know His moral will and make wise choices accordingly. Inner peace follows regardless of circumstances. Make sure you have it. God is in control. Relax. The Lord's mercy never ceases. The Lord's compassions never fail. The Lord's faithfulness never diminishes.