Updated: Dec 6, 2020
I came across the announcement for this book just two months after deciding to read the original Hunger Games series. I had already seen the movies as they debuted in theaters, but as a self-proclaimed Twilight superfan, I know firsthand how much better a book can be over its film adaptation. My sister already had the first Hunger Games book lying around the house from a school assignment, so I felt compelled to give it a shot. Fast forward to late February and I am nearing the end of the series. To my pleasant surprise, I learned from Twitter that Suzanne Collins is releasing a new book from the world of Panem titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.
I don’t know if anyone can relate to this, but after finishing a series, whether it be with books, film, or television shows, a wave of depression hits me like a ton of bricks. I can’t help but get attached to characters and their stories, so endings are really tough for me. Ask anyone who went with me to watch the last Twilight movie in theatres. I bawled my eyes out for a good 15-20 minutes after it came to the closing credits. But anyways, you can imagine my delight in finding that Collins decided to re-open the Hunger Games franchise with this new prequel featuring as the protagonist none other than Coriolanus (President) Snow.
The revealing of the story’s main character caused a lot of disappointment amongst fans as seen on several social media platforms. Many felt that Collins could have chosen literally anyone else from the series, yet she decided to highlight the most hated character of all the books (except for maybe Gale lol). I for one was not discouraged in the slightest by the choice in detailing the early life of President Snow. I knew it would give us so much insight to the origin of the Games and the evolution of Panem overall. Collins delivered generously on that selling point with a whopping 517 pages filled with all the little details that make a book worth reading.
My Spoiler-Free Review:
Overall the book followed suit with the style of the original Hunger Games series, but you could say that the pace is slightly slower. I was okay with this personally because I enjoy getting every possible detail, and as I mentioned before I don’t want stories to end. With this being said, Collins stayed true to her use of cliffhangers at the end of each chapter, making it difficult to put the book down. My favorite part of the book was the way in which Collins tied together aspects from the previous books in a very seamless and interesting way. It completely intensifies our understanding of Panem as we thought we knew it.
In terms of the ending, I don’t think I’ve ever read something so intense before in my life. It was like having a movie play in my head. Your eyes will race to keep up as there is so much going on and it happens so fast. I would give this book a 10/10 without a doubt. I feel that Collins’ ability to take a known antagonist and turn them into the protagonist that I actually rooted for and felt invested in was exceptional. If you haven’t read the original Hunger Games books then I strongly urge you to before reading TBSS, it will make the experience so much more enjoyable. Finally, although Collins’ ties up a lot of loose ends for us in this prequel, there is still a lot left to question and think about. I have plenty of theories of my own, so don’t hesitate to reach out with yours.
Purchase The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes using my link:
***If your intent is to avoid spoilers, STOP HERE!***
Now for the fun part. I am personally not a fan of getting spoilers before seeing or reading things for myself, but I know a lot of people are so here we go! This is a final warning that spoilers are ahead, so click away unless you want the inside scoop. Here are some of my favorite details that I learned from reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes:
Tigris, the cat-like woman from Mockingjay that was a designer for the games and let Katniss’ squad use her bunker, is President Snow’s cousin. She clearly despises Snow in Mockingjay, but we see in TBSS that they are very close and loving towards one another. This leaves us wondering what led to the strain in their relationship other than Snow becoming a power-hungry snake of a human being.
Lucy Gray Baird, the district 12 girl tribute and mentee of Snow, is the writer of ‘The Hanging Tree’ song that we learn about in the Mockingjay book. The song was inspired by a rebel who plants a bomb in the coal mines with the intentions of halting coal production to the Capitol, but it ends up killing three people in the process. Remember the line, “Strung up a man, say who murdered three”.
Lucy Gray Baird wins the 10th Annual Hunger Games.
Snow gives Lucy Gray some advantages in the game to help her win, but he is caught by the Dean and the Head Gamemaker, Dr. Gaul. He is punished by being forced to enlist as a peacekeeper. This punishment turns out to be another one of Dr. Gaul’s dark and twisted lessons as she sees Snow as her protégé.
The ideas for betting on tributes, sending them gifts from sponsors, and giving them a lavish stay leading up to the Games were all crafted by Snow. He made the games what they are in the Hunger Games Series. You’ll have to read the book to see how far they’ve come.
I didn’t want to give away too much so you’ll have to read the book to find out the rest. Also, stay tuned as I will be doing another blog post detailing my ideal cast for the film adaptation that has already been given a greenlight from Lionsgate.
Until next time...