A Hat Full of Sky is the sequel to The Wee Free Men. After reading Emma Donoghue's Room, I really needed something light and fun! Of course, Terry Pratchett is perfect for just such occasions.
A Hat Full of Sky picks up some time after The Wee Free Men left off, with Tiffany packing up to go be an apprentice to Miss Level, a witch who lives in a forest. While at Miss Level's, Tiffany does a magic trick that involves leaving her own body; when she does this, a hiver takes residence in her body and Tiffany must it for control of herself and her thoughts. And, of course, she has the Nac Mac Feegles to help her. This book also features a cameo by my favorite Discworld character, DEATH.
I did really horribly on that plot summary. It makes the book seem so much darker than it really is, and also much more high fantasy-like. Please forgive my appalling summarizing skills and note that this book is not at all gloom-and-doom. Can you even have gloom-and-doom when the Nac Mac Feegles are around? I think it's physically impossible.
If you have not yet given Terry Pratchett a try, you really are missing out on quite a treat. I say it in every one of my reviews of his books, but it bears repeating. The man is a comic genius. Truly! He also writes books that deal with Big Themes but in such fabulously interesting and hilarious ways that you don't realize you've learned anything until after you set the book aside. He is not preachy. He is funny. And he is so, so, so good at writing female characters who absolutely rule.
This book tackles the idea of what makes people human. Everyone has negative thoughts, but most of us are able to stop from acting on these impulses of cruelty, greed or anger. We might think mean things about other people, but we do not say them, nor do we act on our baser instincts. When Tiffany's body is taken over by a hiver, she begins doing and saying things that she wishes in the deepest, darker corners of her mind that she could do and say, but she never does because she is too polite. When she realizes that the hiver was only acting on her own desires, she is terrified. Is she a bad person? Isn't having the thoughts just as bad as saying the words or doing the actions?
No, it's not. That's what I love about Terry Pratchett. Many authors who write for children try to put in a moral of some sort, similar to "Never think ill of others." But really... that's impossible (well, it's impossible for me). Everyone thinks ill of someone else. But the important thing is to not act on those thoughts. Pratchett knows we're less than perfect. But he makes our imperfections so glorious and so easy to sympathize with that you can't help tearing up about everything. When Tiffany sulks because she doesn't think she has been punished properly for all the horrible things she has done, her mentor (the inimitable Granny Weatherwax) points out that if Tiffany had been further punished, then a great many innocent and good people would have been punished, too. And that is an important lesson to learn, in my opinion. There is no need to be a martyr if it means taking other people down with you.
I don't know that I am really describing this book well, or making anyone want to read it who has not yet. I think Terry Pratchett is the cat's pajamas. I wish everyone would just give him a try. His every story has so much heart and soul in it. All of them feature characters you can cheer for, his Tiffany Aching series is no exception.