In the second chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, Tiffany meets the witch who will train her. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
I don’t even think you can call Twoshirts a city. Or a village. It’s just a place that is unbelievable small, and it reminds me of a lot of the tiny, tiny towns way out in the desert in California. I remember visiting Zyzzyx, California, which is barely a bend in the road these days. It used to home to an old “resort” (and I use that term very, very loosely) in the early 1900s, but when I visited it about a decade ago, it was only home to a research facility for one of the Cal State universities. There wasn’t anything else there but a weird pool of water in a concrete lining, some cars, and a few trailers. Yet it was on the map, and it’s one of the last places in California on the way to Vegas, so I’d always wanted to go there.
There’s a sense of magic to places that are isolated, and I feel like that is something Pratchett taps into at the start of chapter two. I also feel like there’s a magic to large, metropolitan cities, and I admit I gravitate to them more. (And why I like Ankh-Morpork so much.) But the remote strangeness of this and what happens to Tiffany feels intentional, at least because she’s no longer at home. We see that later in the chapter as she’s flying over her country on Miss Level’s broomstick, so I feel a little more confident that this is about Tiffany leaving her comfort zone. She’s away from the place she’s lived her entire life, traveling with someone who isn’t a friend, and is about to be handed off to someone who is a stranger, all so she can learn to be a witch. It’s a frightening concept all by itself, and she’s so YOUNG to be leaving home.
So it doesn’t help that Tiffany’s journey is plagued by the persistent presence of the hiver (whatever the hell that is!!!), which adds an extra level of weirdness to her trip. I loved seeing the shamble appear in the story, and it was neat that it was planted early so that we’d get that tense sequence later with the hiver and Tiffany’s “ghost” body. I don’t know if there’s a literary term for what a shamble is, but you know in genre fiction when there’s some device that can detect the scary/awful thing? That’s what this feels like, and its use here IS unnerving. Of course, that’s partly because I don’t know what the hiver is; I just know when it is COMING.
BUT THERE’S MORE! One other reason this is so creepy is that Miss Tick and Miss Level have secrets. Miss Tick is very nervous, first of all, about the magical presence that no one can explain yet. (I still don’t know if the witches actually know what hivers are or if they’re a mystery to them, too.) It did give us this adorable moment, though:
“You are very nervous,” said Tiffany. “If you told me why, that means there’s two of us, which is only half the nervousness each.”
I LOVE THIS SO MUCH. Granted, it is like… immediately negated less than a page later:
And I was wrong. Two people means twice as much nervousness each.
WELL, SHE TRIED. But Tiffany, observant and curious and inquisitive, cannot let go her suspicion that Miss Tick is keeping some important detail from her. It’s why she decides to “split” herself and listen in on the conversation between Miss Tick and Miss Level. Y’all, I don’t get it. What is Miss Level’s “situation”? Why is it that Miss Level says that she has two noses? Why does she think that she was in two places at once? I had a theory I vocalized on video that maybe this is sort of like how Tiffany can split herself? What if Miss Level is not actually here with Tiffany, but elsewhere? It’s not a great theory, mind you, but I’m trying to figure out why these witches would be so coy with Tiffany rather than tell her the truth. I agree with Polly; Miss Level is hiding something, and I’m a little concerned about what that is. Are they trying to protect her? WHAT DOES THIS MEAN:
That cheerfulness has got cracks around the edges. Something isn’t right here….
Miss Level is overcompensating for something. But what?
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