Terry Pratchett,
A Hat Full of Sky
(HarperCollins, 2004)

What's a body to do if he finds a horde of tiny blue men pounding away at his skull from the inside?

For most people, the correct answer is to seek medical help -- preferably with someone in the mental health field. But if your name is Terry Pratchett, you should sit down and write a story, if only to quiet them down for a while.

Pratchett's A Hat Full of Sky is a young-adult novel from his Discworld line of hilarity. A sequel to The Wee Free Men, it brings the young witch, Tiffany Aching, and the diminutive clan of Nac Mac Feegle back for another go. Pratchett didn't plan to write about these characters again, at least not so soon, but he explains in his introduction that it was the only way to get the fierce pictsies to leave him alone!

Kudos to the blueskins for their determinedness! The book is wonderfully fun and inventive, full of the things that make the best books in Pratchett's library great, and it's immediately apparent why it had to be written. This book, which focuses on Tiffany's apprenticeship as a witch, easily ranks among my favorites from the series. It is, in some ways, more serious than the stories of Rincewind, the Unseen University, the Night Watch and other Discworld mainstays; Tiffany has all the appearances of a regular character in the making, and I look forward to watching her development under Pratchett's creative hand.

Of course, the Nac Mac Feegle ensure all sorts of good fun along the way, but more important to the supporting cast are Tiffany's teachers, Miss Tick and Miss Level. There's also all sorts of fun bits about witches in general, both the no-pretensions working witches who get things done and the preening, black-and-silver, moons-and-stars accessorizing sort who worry more about the look than the function and who, if they lived in our world, would no doubt live in Salem (or wish they did) and wear far too much eye-liner.

The grandest witch of them all, Granny Weatherwax, makes her appearance fairly late in the book, but quickly becomes a vital part of the story. Weatherwax has come a long way from her humble beginnings in Equal Rites, more than two dozen novels back in the Discworld series, and she has become my favorite Discworld character with her no-nonsense approach to witchery -- and people.

A Hat Full of Sky proves that Pratchett is only getting better as he goes. If you're not already reading his books, start now. You'll want this one in your collection for sure.

- Rambles
written by Tom Knapp
published 29 May 2004

Buy it from Amazon.com.