In the sixth chapter of A Hat Full of Sky, THIS IS TOO MUCH. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld.
Trigger Warning: For fatphobia, bullying, consent
I was truly not ready for this.
There’s so much here I enjoyed, but I’m gonna start by saying that the pacing of this book is unexpected, and it’s making it such a fun journey. I assumed that it would be a while before the hiver actually succeeded with Tiffany because… well, she needed to have all of her moments learning witchcraft with Miss Level. I guess I thought it was that kind of book, if it makes sense? A coming-of-age novel with lots of lessons about what constitutes witchcraft, and then we’d deal with the hiver? Even then, once I accepted that the hiver had stolen Tiffany’s body, I expected Pratchett to keep this a secret from Miss Level. I anticipated that Tiffany would get to spend a lot more time with the hiver controlling her before anyone aside from the Feegle figured out what was going on, but NOPE, wrong on that count, too. Pratchett is accelerating this quicker than I thought, and that excites me because WHERE IS THIS GONNA GO NEXT.
The generational ritual that Jeannie participates in at the opening of the chapter is astounding, and I didn’t realize that keldas can’t ever return home once they join a new clan. Thus, there’s this ritual, one in which memories—a collective of them, that is—are passed from one kelda to another. It grants a sense of community to these women that they otherwise wouldn’t have with the way their society is organized. Well, community and information, and that generational memory is an important part of the process! I loved this particular line:
Only the kelda knew about the real hiddlin, which was this: The river of memory wasn’t a river, it was a sea.
A sea of memory that provides what Jeannie needs: the past. The future. The present. Seeing it all at once! Which is, unfortunately, how she finds out that the hiver has gotten Tiffany.
Oh, NO. Look, I knew how the hiver affected Professor Bustle, and indeed, it’s clear how the hiver seemed to make Bustle’s ego seem worse. But even that is a bit of a flawed outlook because it’s not even that the hiver accents or exaggerates a person’s ego; it just TAKES IT OVER. The hiver itself is convinced of its own supremacy, and thus, it makes the people act like that. Pratchett makes this abundantly clear by drawing lines between Tiffany herself and the hiver Tiffany. It judges others; it is cruel; it believes that everything around it is boring and mundane and uninteresting. Even then, the reader knows that this is not the real Tiffany speaking (aside from when she breaks through), and it’s still so, so disturbing. I thought Annagramma’s cruelty was going to be the worst of this book, but now I can see how her behavior was almost a clue as to what Tiffany would soon become once the hiver stole her body.
That being said, I also get why it’s not obvious to Miss Level at first that something has basically taken over Tiffany. The hiver was initially very good at seeming like Tiffany, but one thing that is so deeply, deeply upsetting about this chapter is how quickly the horror settles in. The hiver gives up on faking it once Tiffany is alone, and LOOK. ABUSING ANIMALS IS ONE OF MY LEAST FAVORITE THINGS FOREVER. Granted, I know it’s not Tiffany, so I wouldn’t dream of holding this against her. (And knowing the story of Granny Aching confronting the man who beat his animal, I know she would never do this either. It’s precisely why this is so fucked up! The hiver is forcing Tiffany to be someone that is utterly unlike herself, or at least an exaggerated version of her own internal narrative. Like, she had mean thoughts about her younger brother, sure, but that doesn’t mean she’d actually say or do any of this. She wouldn’t tell Petulia that she isn’t clever or that she’s too fat, and she wouldn’t insult Miss Level, and she certainly wouldn’t even think all those horrible things about other people.
The hiver is awakened here, and lord, y’all, I wasn’t fucking ready at all.
I loved the invocation of that image: crowded. Tiffany’s mind and body are crowded, full of the hiver and her own consciousness, who desperately is trying to break free of the hiver’s control. Oh, gods, I LOVE THAT TIFFANY IS FIGHTING THE ENTIRE TIME. She speaks up, she forces her body to leave warnings, she physically tries to wrest control away from this awful thing, and I was not surprised by that. That’s Tiffany Aching, all right, and if anyone can resist an ancient, destructive force like that, then it’s her.
Even then, Pratchett layers on more body horror after Hiver Tiffany drops all pretense of pretending to be Actual Tiffany. Her demonstration of magic was creepy enough, but the whole thing of seeing herself as a tiger, or with scales, is just… YIKES, Y’ALL. It’s so horrifying! The same with all of Hiver Tiffany’s angry outbursts to Miss Level about what witches should be doing. There seems to be an undercurrent in all this that looks like young rebellion, but Pratchett twists something that would be normally relatable into something horrifying. It’s true that adults lie to children to frighten them, to make sure they do what they are told! But Hiver Tiffany’s reaction to this is to fully reject Miss Level, to insult her mentor, and to leave Miss Level’s home. Where is she gonna go? What is she gonna do? I don’t know! The hiver seeks out power and chaos; it aims to destroy others. So… what next?
After Tiffany’s rejection of Miss Level, I assumed that Miss Level would not suspect the full truth, that she would believe that Tiffany was affected by the other girls and was grossly experimenting with magic and the boundaries that are set around her. Right??? It made sense to me, and so I was surprised that Pratchett accelerated the story AGAIN. Let me first say that I was deeply, deeply amused that the Feegles got caught the way they did. Daft Wullie couldn’t resist stealing an apple, and that’s how Miss Level spotted him. And then this is how she baits Rob Anybody out in the open:
Miss Level brought him a little closer to her mouth.
“I’ll let you go right now without giving you a taste of the twenty-year-old MacAbre single malt I have in my cupboard,” she said.
Rob Anybody leaped up.
HE FELL FOR IT SO QUICKLY, Y’ALL. Bless the Feegles, I swear. And this makes for such a fascinating development because it brings Miss Level up to speed. She now knows what a hiver is; she knows how it possessed Tiffany; and she can move forward immediately. That’s such a brilliant thing because it adds urgency to the story. No one is sitting around waiting for the next plot twist to happen; they’re out changing the story themselves!
But I did want to address Tiffany’s power, the little magic she was doing, because I had always been referring to it as her ability to “split” herself. Y’all, THAT’S NOT WHAT SHE WAS DOING AT ALL.
“She walked out of her own body! There’s not one—“
“—witch in a hundred who can do that!” she said. “That’s Borrowling, that is! It’s better than any circus trick! It’s putting—“
“—your mind somewhere else!”
OH. OH MY GOD. She is doing Borrowing, which Granny Weatherwax does, but Tiffany doesn’t know that you’re supposed to protect your body while doing it! Oh god, so that means she is sending her mind elsewhere, like Granny does, but she doesn’t put it into the body of another creature. She just existed outside her own body. THIS IS A LOT TO TAKE IN. No wonder the hiver was drawn to Tiffany!!! HOW CAN SHE DO THIS WITH NO LITERAL TRAINING AT ALL?
This book continues to be a LOT.
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