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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: a successful prequel to iconic Hunger Games Series?

January book review by Emma Sass

Summary

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is set in dystopian world of Panem, that once was known as North America. Panem citizens were involved in a civil war with the nation’s capital on one side and the districts or “states” on the other. Following the Capitol’s win, they enacted “The Hunger Games,” which by lottery pulls one female and one male between the ages of 12 and 18 from each of the 12 districts to fight to the death for the entertainment of the Capitol and a constant reminder for the districts of the repercussions of fighting against the Capitol's power. The original trilogy follows Katniss Everdeen, the female tribute from district 12, during the 74th Hunger Games.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” follows a young Coriolanus Snow. The audience first meets Coriolanus in the Hunger Games trilogy but is known as the tyrannical leader of Panem, President Snow. This story follows Coriolanus as a mentor for the female district 12 tribute, Lucy Gray, during the 10thHunger Games. We see the pair’s relationship grow from strangers to friends, but the lines between professionalism and caring begin to blur the more time Coriolanus spends with Lucy Gray. Coriolanus has a lot riding on the win of Lucy Gray. He would get a scholarship for university, which would help hide the financial ruin his once powerful family is facing. He doesn’t want to lose her after their newfound relationship, Coriolanus is now confronted with deciding what is more important, love or dominance within Panem.

Ranking

5/5


Top 3: What makes it a five-star ranking?

1.Good backstory/history of the games

As someone who read the trilogy during my early teen years and reread them this past year, I always was interested in how Panem/The Hunger Games began. It talks about the civil war and life during it. The Capitol living always felt like something that was distanced, but now we can see first-hand that Capitol life isn’t as glamorous as it has been portrayed. This time around I got to read about the inside perspective of someone who is integral to the creation/legacy of the games.


2. Story kept me engaged

I have a tendency to start books then stop reading them along the way, but this book kept me engaged and made me want to read.


3. Character development

This book follows the main antagonist of the trilogy. It gives readers a look into Coriolanus’s early life and makes the character more rounded since it shows the actions that made him the antagonist of the book.


Common Themes

· Morals

· Dilemma between right and wrong

· Power

· Loyalty

· Societal roles


Improvements

Exploring Secondary Characters More

There were some dynamic characters that were vital to the start of the Hunger Games, and I wish we got to see more of their story. The characters that I wish she went in more depth of are: Tigris Snow (Coriolanus’ cousin), Dr. Volumnia Gaul (Head Game Maker), and Casca Highbottom (Dean of the Academy). They had a huge influence on Coriolanus’ choices that led to him becoming the dictator of Panem.


Parts of the Books was Slow.

The book explores a lot of the “everyday” life of the character as the story progresses, which leads to parts of the book being slower and not as action packed. People who struggle to get into books with a slower start may get bored.


What Others Think


“I thought The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was a really great read and the author did a really great job of giving a backstory of the villain that we see in the original trilogy. I liked how the book showed the character development of seeing President Snow going from a not bad guy to the series antagonist” (Jacqueline Raque, Midway University student, FaceTime interview)


“[The Ballad of Songbirds and Snake] it was interesting to read about [President] Snow when he was young before he was president. I loved the parallels between Snow, Lucy and Katniss. I felt like I had more questions at the end like how exactly Snow became president and how the games evolved into what they are now.” (Abby Howie, University of Kentucky student, FaceTime interview)


“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a unique novel where readers are invited to see into the mind of Coriolanus Snow. Readers truly experience and understand Snow’s transition from being a young protagonist to the very worst of antagonists. You gain the insight about Snow throughout the book that helps you further make connections with his identity, and it also deepens your understanding of the reasoning behind his heinous ways.” (Taylor Wolford, University of Kentucky student, FaceTime interview)


Conclusion

Suzanne Collins has done it again! No wonder “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” was an immediate hit, readers are once again immersed into the world of Panem. Readers get an insider’s view of the series antagonist and learn about this journey is vital in his role to becoming President Snow. If you have read the original Hunger Games trilogy it is a must read, if not, read the trilogy first them come back to the prequel!


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