Pratchett, Terry: (32) A Hat Full of Sky

My reaction on finishing Terry Pratchett’s A Hat Full of Sky was two-part:

  1. Gosh, you’d think he’d have run out of things to say about the nature of witches, after six books about the Lancre witches and the prior nominally-YA book about Tiffany Aching, The Wee Free Men.
  2. And yet he doesn’t appear to have. That’s kind of impressive.

Tiffany is now eleven and leaving home to start her formal education in witching. She knows sheep, and cheese, and the Chalk. She doesn’t know status-conscious girls, or how to make a shamble, or how to deal with having her body taken over when she casually left it empty for a moment—so she’d better learn fast.

Tiffany is only eleven, which helps differentiate this book from prior Witches books: because of her youth and inexperience, she’s prone to mistakes that Granny Weatherwax just wouldn’t make. Tiffany may be Granny’s apparent successor, but she’s no Mary Sue and she has a long road ahead of her to get there.

(I continue to be curious if Pratchett has an end in mind for Granny. In the unlikely event I get to talk to him at Worldcon (I imagine he’ll be mobbed constantly), I may well ask.)

Oh, and the Nac Mac Feegle are back. Good stuff, nothing earth-shaking but solid and enjoyable.

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  1. As I’ve said before: I’m more curious about whether he plans an end for Havelock Vetinari. After him, the deluge, or what?

  2. Well, this was the first book where Granny Weatherwax didn’t set my teeth on edge. I have upclose and personal experiences with a whole slew of Granny types and I find them — unpleasant. But she was quite bearable here. MKK–soon to be starring as Gytha Ogg at a worldcon near you

  3. Matt: I also. Ooh! If you don’t object to the concept of fanfic, there’s a teeny little fic on the topic that I really liked: here. Mary Kay: I would not at all like to meet Granny in person, but I have different standards for fictional characters. If I’d had up-close-and-personal experience with her type I’d probably feel differently about it too. (And you’re on opposite Ask Dr. Mike! How can I choose?!)

  4. Sorry to miss you at WorldCon. It’s very odd to read a Pratchett in which the Clown Act is very nearly absent – and with it the “well-formed”, neatly meshing, Plot which is one of his usual targets. It read to me like three different short works on Tiffany – a short story on the WFM, a novella on the hiver, and a long short on Granny Weatherwax – all mushed together.

  5. Paul: re: Clown Act: I’m not sure I understand what you mean, or at least how that relates to the plotting. Care to expand?

  6. Perhaps you can merge this: Discworld began with Colour of Magic, which is an effort to send up what he was tired of in fantasy; he began an arsenal of comic techniques, chiefly the unexpected literality of his footnotes. This comedy, which I call the Clown Act, is both a weapon against what he dislikes and the main reason many people read Dsicworld. One of the targets of his comedy (in Lords and Ladies, for example) is the sort of Plot in which all prophecies are fulfilled, all the bad guys defeated, and everybody lives happily ever after/ dies tragically – and all of the plot threads pay out simultaneously, five pages before the end of the book. Even Colour of Magic carefully avoids the neat tie-off in which Rincewind saves the world, and I believe intentionally Pratchett objects that Life isn’t like that – and it isn’t. Plots like that are artificial; I think they’re delectable when well done, as in A Civil Campaign, but that’s my opinion, hot his. Hat In The Sky has very little of Pratchett’s comedy (less than half a dozen instances) and it certainly doesn’t have a “well-made” plot.

  7. Paul: Thank you for unpacking that. I think the Tiffany Aching books are interesting because they’re so much less Discworld than any other book set on the Discworld: no Death (definitely in the first one, maybe in this one too, I’m not sure), very little comedy as you rightly point out, and a much tighter sub-series. Apparently there are to be four or five of them, and then that’s all; it certainly feels to me like a specific coming-of-age arc. Did you hear his reading from the third, _Wintersmith_, at Worldcon? I’m really looking forward to it.

  8. Granted this is not a classic DiscWorld book in that it is not purely satirical. It is still pleasantly amusing where it needs to be, especially the parts involving the Nac Mac Feegle. Their over-the-top accents make it almost impossible not to read their dialogue out loud. (hopefully when no one else is around to see you having so much fun making a fool of yourself)

  9. Terry, welcome. And yes, the Feegles are great. I’m looking forward to hearing Briggs’ voicing of their dialogue whenever I get around to these as audiobooks.

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