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A Hat Full of Sky: 07/26/14

cover art

A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett is the 32nd Discworld book and the second of the Tiffany Aching books. Tiffany is now old enough to leave on her first apprenticeship as a with in training. She will be living in the hills, far from her beloved Chalk, and will be under the tutorage of the most unusual Miss Level.

Tiffany, left to her ways in the three years since she saved her brother from the Queen of the Fairies, has figured out some magic that under supervision she would have better control over. As is, though, she has caught the attention of an ancient and dangerous creature — something made up only of raw emotion and hunger. Now it will do anything to drink up Tiffany's power.

How witchcraft works and how it differs from wizardry has been a recurring theme in the Discworld books since Equal Rites (book 3). But it's in the Tiffany Aching books that witchcraft is shown through the context of the student and teacher and the glamor of the big spells and big adventures is de-emphasized for the more day-to-day, mundane, oft-times distasteful, work that comes with the calling.

That's not to say witches can't do magic(k). They most certainly can. What makes them witches, though, is knowing when not to do it. Most of the time, what they do is manual labor and psychology. Witchcraft is about withstraint. Tiffany will learn some harsh lessons about uncontrolled magic and tempers and do something things that can never be undone.

To a teenage girl who desperately wants to learn her craft, the midwifery and eldercare that Miss Level practices more than anything else seem at first like absolute drudge work. Tiffany wants some of the glamor and ritual of Mrs. Earwig's girls (even if she thinks Annagramma is full of it). So if anything, A Hat Full of Sky is about the impatience of youth, of making mistakes, of learning from them, and owning up to one's errors, and ultimately about forgiveness.

While the first book, Wee Free Men avoided most of the obvious references to other Discworld books and characters, this one brings Tiffany into fold. Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and DEATH all make appearances. Of course no Tiffany Aching book would be right without the Nac Mac Feegles. This time, Rob Anybody is reluctantly learning to read.

Five stars

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