The thirty-second novel in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, A Hat Full of Sky is the second to feature the young witch Tiffany Aching after the delight that was The Wee Free Men. Set eighteen months further on, it sees Tiffany leaving the Chalk for the first time and setting off on a sort of witches’ equivalent of an apprenticeship. Away from home for the first time she has to adjust to becoming part of the wider community of witches, all the while being pursued by something with no body or mind, just a great fear and hunger.
In a sense this follows a similar pattern to The Wee Free Men, as Tiffany sets off on a journey determined to succeed despite not really being sure what to expect, and has to look inside herself to find the solutions to the problems she encounters. What it does though is extend the idea – with Tiffany and her world (including the delightful Nac Mac Feegles) already familiar from her first outing, Pratchett starts to bring her a little more into the wider picture of Discworld, looking at how a young girl from the Chalk might fit into the existing community of witches. There’s a wider range of characters this time, with the introduction of the unusual Miss Level and some of the young witches-in-training, not to mention the new Kelda of the Nac Mac Feegle, and there’s a real sense of Tiffany’s story starting to expand.
Where the first novel was about Tiffany realising that she was a witch, here she has to learn what it really means to be a witch. In a similar way to some of his earlier Witches novels, Pratchett takes a good long look at the concept of magic as power, and the responsibility that comes with having that sort of power. She’s still young and impatient, anxious to understand what she’s supposed to be doing, and there seems to be a distinct lack of actual magic taking place around her – she soon finds herself able to demonstrate her abilities but in doing so learns a stark lesson in what the consequences can be.
Pratchett’s books have always rewarded multiple readings, and after the announcement following his death that there will be no more Discworld books (after The Shepherd’s Crown) there’s even more reason to go back and enjoy his incredible legacy. A Hat Full of Sky is no exception, continuing the story one of the most memorable Discworld characters as Tiffany grows and develops, full of warmth and humour and just a little bit of sadness. It’s a wonderful story, and every bit as enjoyable as her first outing.