The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
4 stars – I liked it; it was good
The prequel book to the Hunger Games series which I bought as part of a hoard of books a little while ago. I first had to read the series, and at first, I thought this was a fourth book of some kind, but then found out that it was a prequel.
Read: Jan. 2 – Jan. 13, 2023.
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Very Enjoyable All-Around
After the war between the Capitol and the Districts, Coriolanus Snow and his family is rendered poor, so during the Tenth Hunger Games when he is given a chance to be a part of a new mentor program, he grabs it with both hands. However, he isn’t assigned a tribute to his liking, and if he can’t manage to make an impression and earn a prize, he will have no way of paying for university, and his life will end.
I was both curious and apprehensive when I realized that this book was a prequel about President Snow in his youth. I’d hoped that maybe it would heighten my understanding of his character, and maybe even give me some sympathy for his plight, but I am relieved to say that even after reading the whole story, he is still a scumbag and a rotten person through and through (I suppose only because the Head Gamemaker of the time ruined him). Still, I understand why he made the choices that he did, and I really like that we could learn more about the history of the Hunger Games. There are so many things from the main series that I liked, and I can appreciate them even more now that there is some history to them. Not necessary history, but things that make the original series so much better.
The first book, The Hunger Games, was my favourite, and the others weren’t so much because of how the overarching story turned into just another rise-against-oppression story. Though I didn’t love this book as much as that first one, I think it’s better than Catching Fire and Mockingjay. I think it’s because this simply follows Snow. It is a story about his personal struggles, just like how The Hunger Games was just about Katniss surviving the Games and nothing more than that. I like personal stories better, and while “saving the world” stories are entertaining, I like being able to get to know a character and understanding their psyche and being able to root for their success. That’s exactly what I could do with Snow. Even though he’s a scumbag and makes all the wrong choices (in my opinion) I still found myself rooting for things to go well for him, and even though I knew how it would end (with him as President and the horrors of the Hunger Games continuing) I was almost hoping for this prequel to be a sort of “alternate universe” where Snow made better decisions and didn’t turn into the cruel and oppressive president we all know him as.
I found some of the other information so interesting as well. We got to learn more about how different aspects of the Hunger Games evolved and came into play (mentors, stylists, victors, interviews, sponsors), and we got to learn more about characters like Tigris, and the history of some of the songs that Katniss sang throughout the main series. The Hanging Tree means so much more to me now that I’ve read this book.
It’s not a dystopia, though it is set in a dystopian world, because we know where Snow ends up: President of Panem. The journey he takes to get there may have its ups and downs, but in the end he rises to power just as he planned.
From the first few chapters, I was hooked. I had a few theories of my own as well (at about chapter 3) and I was both right and wrong. I won’t reveal the theory, but it had to do with Snow and his relationship with the tribute assigned to him.
The writing style was just as amazing as the first book. I wasn’t quite a fan of Mockingjay because of what I felt was unnecessary information about District 13 that slowed down the pacing, but the pacing in this book was very good. There wasn’t an impending war that made you expect the pacing to be faster, and like The Hunger Games, none of the scenes felt wasted. Everything played a role just like it should.
The cast of characters was interesting and dynamic like all of Suzanne Collins’s characters. Each of them has their own agenda that clashes with everyone else, and while we only receive Snow’s thoughts and emotions, each character’s actions are consistent and understandable; you can anticipate what the characters will do at times, and at others they can still surprise you. The thing I loved and hated was that even though I thought that Snow was constantly making the wrong decisions, I could understand what led him to make them. The narrative has just enough of his thought process and justifications for you to understand him but still be angry at him for doing so.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed the Hunger Games book series, and to anyone who wants to delve into the world of Panem even further.
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