Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Book review: Hat Full Of Sky, Terry Pratchett

Last year at this time I mentioned to Mr. Pratchett that I was ready for another of his youth books. It took him until now to deliver; at least the paperback version, which I paid my $7 for. (BTW, my book trading site is gone now. I don't think they managed to build a community. Social software post another day!) The further adventures of Tiffany Aching are available, and it's quite a good book. Tiffany, now 11, goes off her home land to be apprenticed to a witch, but unbeknownst to her she is being tracked by a mysterious being who wants to eat her soul!

Boy, that summary makes it sound kind of iffy, doesn't it? It really isn't. The Nac Mac Feegle are back and as feisty as ever, although I think their dialect is significantly easier to understand than in the earlier books. I'm guessing you can't make major characters out of folks no one can understand. Tiffany's interactions with the other apprentices are nicely done, and Granny Weatherwax is fascinating as the other characters now talk about her the way she once spoke of Black Aliss Demurrage. Tiffany's progress as a witch is brought forth nicely, and Rob Anybody really comes across as a personality rather than a caricature like most of the Mac Feegle.

The ending is a bit nicey-nice, which I suppose is appropriate for a book theoretically targeted at younger readers. To me it came across a bit like when one of the great villains of all time, Darth Vader, decided he was really a nice guy after all and was redeemed in a single swoop. C'mon now, bad folks are a lot more fun when they're bad, now aren't they? The Mac Feegle queen was a bit wishy-washy too, and I didn't really buy into her mood swings. Finally, the climax of the book takes place at something called the Witch Trials, which appears to be sort of a renaissance festival for witches. Odd, but again maybe appropriate for the younger reader.

And for all of that, it's classic Pratchett and you can't complain. Most comedy writers, take Piers Anthony or Douglas Adams, get steadily sillier as they reach the later books in a series and have to try to wring one more gag out of the same scenario. But the great ones, like Pratchett and Wodehouse, just keep on kicking out one or two new terrific stories every year. This is one of those. Read it.