Excerpt from A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Hat Full of Sky

by Terry Pratchett

A Hat Full of Sky
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  • First Published:
    May 2004, 288 pages
    Jun 2005, 448 pages

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From here she could see the pointy hat on her head, but she had to look hard for it. It was like a glint in the air, gone as soon as you saw it. That’s why she’d been worried about the new straw hat, but it had simply gone through the pointy hat as if it wasn’t there.

This was because, in a way, it wasn’t. It was invisible, except in the rain. Sun and wind went straight through, but rain and snow somehow saw it, and treated it as if it was real.

She’d been given it by the greatest witch in the world, a real witch with a black dress and a black hat and eyes that could go through you like turpentine goes through a sick sheep. It had been a kind of reward. Tiffany had done magic, serious magic. Before she had done it she hadn’t known that she could, when she had been doing it she hadn’t known that she was, and after she had done it she hadn’t known how she had. Now she had to learn how.

"See me not," she said. The vision of her—or whatever it was, because she was not exactly sure about this trick—vanished.

It had been a shock, the first time she’d done this. But she’d always found it easy to see herself, at least in her head. All her memories were like little pictures of herself doing things or watching things, rather than the view from the two holes in the front of her head. There was a part of her that was always watching her.

Miss Tick—another witch, but one who was easier to talk to than the witch who’d given Tiffany the hat—had said that a witch had to know how to "stand apart," and that she’d find out more when her talent grew, so Tiffany supposed the "see me" was part of this.

Sometimes Tiffany thought she ought to talk to Miss Tick about "see me." It felt as if she was stepping out of her body but still had a sort of ghost body that could walk around. It all worked as long as her ghost eyes didn’t look down and see that she was just a ghost body. If that happened, some part of her panicked and she found herself back in her solid body immediately. Tiffany had, in the end, decided to keep this to herself. You didn’t have to tell a teacher everything. Anyway, it was a good trick for when you didn’t have a mirror.

Miss Tick was a sort of witch finder. That seemed to be how witchcraft worked. Some witches kept a magical lookout for girls who showed promise, and found them an older witch to help them along. They didn’t teach you how to do it. They taught you how to know what you were doing.

Witches were a bit like cats. They didn’t much like one another’s company, but they did like to know where all the other witches were, just in case they needed them. And what you might need them for was to tell you, as a friend, that you were beginning to cackle.

Witches didn’t fear much, Miss Tick had said, but what the powerful ones were afraid of, even if they didn’t talk about it, was what they called "going to the bad." It was too easy to slip into careless little cruelties because you had power and other people hadn’t, too easy to think other people didn’t matter much, too easy to think that ideas like right and wrong didn’t apply to you. At the end of that road was you drooling and cackling to yourself all alone in a gingerbread house, growing warts on your nose.

Witches needed to know other witches were watching them.

And that, Tiffany thought, was why the hat was there. She could touch it anytime, provided she shut her eyes. It was a kind of reminder . . .

"Tiffany!" her mother shouted up the stairs. "Miss Tick’s here!"

Yesterday Tiffany had said good-bye to Granny Aching . . .

The iron wheels of the old shepherding hut were half buried in the turf, high up on the hills. The potbellied stove, which still stood lopsided in the grass, was red with rust. The chalk hills were taking them, just like they’d taken the bones of Granny Aching.

From A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett.  Copyright © 2004 by Terry and Lyn Pratchett.  All rights reserved.  Reproduced by permission of Harper Collins Publishers.

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