“It’s not over until the mockingjay sings.”
A prequel to Suzanne Collins‘ The Hunger Games series and published in 2020, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set around the 10th annual Hunger Game, where 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmanoeuvre his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute. The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined, as he must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive, no matter what it takes.
I’m a big fan of The Hunger Games books and films, but I’m always cautious to read new instalments, especially when they’re prequels. But I was really curious to see what Songbirds and Snakes would unravel, and how I would feel about President Snow after reading about his transition from mentor to villain.
So with all expectations lost, I loved what we discover in this book. I enjoyed seeing how Snow helped to develop the games, his reasons for doing so and the way his actions impacted the games as we know them, and I enjoyed getting to understand his character better.
I like that the book doesn’t try to redeem him as a character, as no fan of this series wanted that. But it was interesting to see a more humane side to his character, and the reasons why his intentions went from good to pure evil.
I think there could have been more of a transition in his eventual fall from grace as the end felt quite abrupt for me, but I think Collins does a fantastic job of exploring the early years of Panem and I feel like I got to know so much more about this fictional world.
With less of an emphasis on the action of the games and no characters to really root for like in the main series, of course this prequel didn’t have the same feel to it. But I’m glad I read it, and I liked the conclusions that it gave.
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