Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Review: A Hat Full of Sky

A Hat Full of Sky
A Hat Full of Sky is the sequel to The Wee Free MenAfter 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.

15 comments:

  1. I love Death too, I remmeber this series where Death had a kid too, and it was just too adorable

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  2. I love Terry Pratchett books. I'm always surprised when I see reviews that complain about the books "jumping around between pov's", and having more than one plot (they all come together in the end).

    Have you read all of his books? There is a new one with the Nac Mac Feegles/ (or is it Mac Nac Feegles - I get it mixed up everytime) storyline coming out in the fall. I'm hoping it also has Tiffany Aching in it.

    One of the things that I like about Terry Pratchett's young adult books is that he assumes that the children/teens are going to understand what he's writing about. He certainly doesn't dumb it down; it seems he treats writing for children as if they're all intelligent and mature.

    My favorite characters are Death, Granny, Nanny Ogg, and Susan...I enjoy all the others of course.

    Great review - if I hadn't already known about Terry Pratchett, I'm sure this would have made me want to read him.

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  3. I haven't read anything by Terry Pratchett, but I think you've just convinced me to give his books a try. Is there one book that makes a good introduction? There seem to be so many written by him!

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  4. Blodeuedd- Yes, that's probably my favorite series within a series :-)

    Mardel- I have never seen a review say that about him, but I guess I could see that being confusing if you are just coming new to him. I don't think I have read all his books, no- I don't much care for the earlier ones as much as his later ones. I did hear about the new one coming out (yes, it does feature Tiffany Aching!), and so am trying to read Wintersmith before then, too.

    Iris- Yay! I would start with either Mort, Guards! Guards! or Small Gods. Those three are my favorites :-) Small Gods is a stand-alone. Guards! Guards! and Mort are the start of series- Mort of the Death series and Guards! Guards! of the Watch series.

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  5. My husband recently read the first three books in the Discworld series, and has been raving about them since. I really want to read these books and think that Pratchett and I would get along just fine! I have also heard from others that the Tiffany Aching series is wonderful, so I am glad that you found it to be so as well. It sounds like a really fun book that is not too heavy on the messages, and I am glad it was such a good read for you!!

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  6. This was the first Pratchett I ever read! I loved it, and went ahead and picked up The Wee Free Men and Wintersmith after.

    Other than the above-mentioned, I've only read Equal Rites. Must read more Pratchett.

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  7. Fun! I didn't even know there was a sequel. I haven't read Wee Free Men yet, but a good friend of mine highly recommends it. Excellent knowing there's a second!

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  8. I like Terry Pratchett's books, but haven't read the Wee Free Men books yet. My absolute favourites are Hogfather and Thief of Time. Have tried to get my teenage son interested in reading Pratchett, not succeeded so far.

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  9. Oh, Death shows up in this one? I have heard so much about the Terry Pratchett Death character! I didn't realize he (she?) (it?) shows up in the Tiffany Aching series - I read The Wee Free Men a while ago, and I really need to get moving and read this one.

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  10. I love Terry Pratchett. He's so much fun to read.

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  11. Zibilee- Based on what I've heard, your husband has excellent taste on books and you should trust him ;-)

    anothercookiecrumbles- Yes, I really liked Wee Free Men, too, and have Wintersmith on my shelf. I hope to get to it before the next book in the series comes out! I liked Equal Rites, too- a great choice for the Women Unbound series, really!

    Andi- Yes, and there is a third out and a fourth to be released shortly, too!

    Tracy- I love Thief of Time, too! Sigh. Lobsang. I like Hogfather as well. I pretty much love any book with Death.

    Jenny- Well, he only makes a BRIEF appearance, but it was enough for me.

    Carrie- I feel like we first bonded over Sir Pterry :-)

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  12. I love this review, Aarti :D I'll admit I don't take much convincing when it comes to Pterry, but you did make me want to re-read it :P

    And an interesting bit of trivia re: the comments about Death: The Wee Free Men is actually the only Deathless Discworld novel! The others all have at least one appearance, however brief.

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  13. I've never read Terry Pratchett either, but I've had a copy of The Bromeliad Trilogy for about five years! I'm almost finished with all of Neil Gaiman (except Good Omens, which he cowrote with Pratchett) so I think I'll have to move on to Pratchett soon.

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  14. I've had a copy of The Bromeliad Trilogy for about five years
    I like the Bromeliad Trilogy, Karenlibrarian - it's supposed to be a children's book, but some of it is far too subtle for children to grasp.

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  15. The fourth Tiffany Aching book is coming out this year! Cannot wait!

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