Darcie checks out Suzanne Collins‘ hotly anticipated prequel to The Hunger Games
It’s time for us to once again to return to the post dystopian world of The Hunger Games franchise. After months of anticipation, we finally have another exciting instalment to the world that captivated both readers and movie watcher alike. The Hunger Games followed the life of young heroine Katniss Everdeen whereas “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” follows a very different character. This time we are given the story of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow, this may seem like an odd choice for the franchise considering he is the main villain of the original Hunger Games books. But the book is a triumph.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes | By Suzanne Collins
Snow is a compelling lead. Within the first chapter all preconceptions of Snow are destroyed it is revealed that he is living in poverty, his families once luxurious penthouse is in disrepair and he knows the true meaning of hunger. He is also not a stranger to loss, being an orphan of war. He is not overly dissimilar to Katniss in circumstance; however, his personality and drive could not be more different where Katniss unintentionally seeks freedom Snow seeks certainty and by the end of the novel, he seeks the power that brings certainty. Although you cannot characterise 18-year-old Snow as innocent (given that he grew up during a war and witnessed many atrocities including cannibalism) there is a sense of vulnerability and even kindness to his character that is unexpected. Throughout he is manipulated and forced to do things by individuals. However, no matter what happens or what relationships Snow holds, romantically with Lucy Gray Baird and familial with Tigris, Snow cannot avoid his calculating nature. Snow is a likeable character, yes there are warning signs throughout, but the final chapter and epilogue firmly cement Snow as the villain we all know, and that transition is more harrowing than I imagined.
Snow is not the only character of note, 10th Hunger Games tribute and victor Lucy Gray Baird is a singing sensation that falls for Snow and may even be the grandmother of Katniss. From the moment we meet her until the end, she is surrounded by an air of mystery which is rather fitting considering she becomes a sort of Myth. Lucy and Snow’s relationship is at the very heart of the narrative which ends in devastation. I really hate that we do not find out what happened to her. Then we have Snows cousin Tigris, this reveal on page one is incredibly shocking because it is Tigris that helps Katniss in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. Tigris is a good-natured character that does her best to look after Coriolanus, which sometimes goes unappreciated. I would love to know how she goes from Snow’s loving cousin that dislikes The Hunger Games to a tribute stylist to a rebel. The novel also has its fair share of victims beyond Snow and Lucy, Snow’s classmates each face trials of their own but one fares more tragically than others. Sejanus grew up in district 2 but due to his father support in the war he and his family were allowed to live in the capital, he is both unknowingly Snow’s enemy and friend. Sejanus offers the novel moral compass and faces a similar fate to Lucy when Snow chooses control over friendship and love. The only issue I have is the unpronounceable names of the characters in this book.
Narrative wise “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” brings us some much-needed context, from why The Hunger Games began, who began them and why Snow is the way he is. We join Panem for the 10th Hunger Games (64 years before Katniss would enter the area). The games are in a primitive state, the tributes from the districts are treated like animals, are rarely fed and are forced to live in a zoo before the games begin. Snow and his fellow classmates are assigned as mentors to the tributes, but they too find themselves in their own sort of Hunger Games, with many ending up injured and some dying. We also get a wider look at Panem, it’s confirmed that Panem was once North America and that the once-great American cities stand falling apart outside of the districts. We also find out that the Capitol once had a thriving tourist industry, Collins gives us small snippets of information, that always leaves me wanting to know more about Panem (We are still waiting on a map).
There is something about the way Suzanne Collins writes that captivates me, this is a pretty lengthy book but I never wanted to put it down. Chapters end on massive cliff hangers that make it impossible to stop reading, thrilling moments happen with little build which shocks the system and pulls you deeper into the narrative. Collins makes it easy for us to really understand the characters she writes, that combined with the fascinating world of Panem is why this book is so brilliant. The novel takes time to delve into the psyche of such a complex character in a way that most young adult novels fail to. Interestingly the novel is written in 3rd person rather than 1st which does make it a different experience to the original trilogy, but 3rd person means we do get a wider view of the narrative’s events. However, I feel like I am left with more questions than I started with, I do wish Collins had tied up some of the loose ends, but perhaps there is still more to come.
I would 100% recommend “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” to fans of The Hunger Games but also to anybody looking for a captivating story. The book is already greenlit for a movie adaptation with the director of The Hunger Games movies already signed on! I for one cannot wait for that and in the meantime, I’ll be re-reading over and over.
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Darcie Gray is a new addition to the Future of the Force roster. Aside from being a passionate Star Wars fan, she loves every genre of movies and she channels her passion for film into her personal blog Just Another Film Blog. Follow her on Twitter @Darcie_Letitia where she shares her love of film regularly.