The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins | Book Review

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Book Review

For fans of The Hunger Games trilogy, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins is a welcome back into the world of the Capitol and the Districts. This book is set over the 10th annual Hunger Games and follows who we know as President Snow in his late teen years.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins
Themes: Young adult, dystopia, fantasy, sci-fi
Reading Format: Hardback

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Spoiler Free

I was initially not too bothered by this book, but when I saw so many people getting excited about it, it made me feel excited too. So I decided to bump it up on my TBR after being sent a copy by Scholastic in helping with their promotion. This is a chunky book set in the world of the Hunger Games, but many years before we know it. At the time of this book the Games are still quite new and the creators and still testing ways to expand them and make them into the Games we know them as in the original trilogy.

In terms of being a prequel, I think this book did a good job. It dropped hints of many things we see coming to pass in the original trilogy and also gives more meaning to certain moments. For example, my favourite part was when we were able to understand the meaning to The Hanging Tree song. Moments like this, alongside certain features in the Games being discovered for the first time and nods to the original books’ titles, meant this book ticked the box for me of setting up the scene well for the world we know to fall into place.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Book Review

I think a lot of people worried this would be a redemption arc for Snow and that we wouldn’t hate him quite so much by the end of it. But whilst The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes does humanise this antagonist and gives him motivation for his actions, it does not redeem him. It cleverly weaves a man torn between his feelings, his inexperience, his need to impress. It shows all of these things working together to paint the picture of the man who becomes such a hideous villain. For this reason, I think Suzanne Collins did a good job of writing the characters in this book. They were all flawed which I like, but none were without meaning and reason, which didn’t justify their actions but explained them.

The atmosphere certainly felt dark, but it was missing something for me, it didn’t have the same dystopian desolate vibe for me that The Hunger Games had. We see a much worse world in the prequel with the tributes being kept in horrible conditions compared to the few days of luxury they get in The Hunger Games. So in that sense, it is bleaker. But this book felt more about the people than the setting of this dystopian hell.

I found some of the writing a bit cringe at times, such as the songs that were written. Saying this though, I did enjoy The Hanging Tree part as I said earlier. But the constant use of song lyrics felt a little cheap and cringey to me as a method of moving along the narrative. Generally, though the way Lucy Gray spoke was also a reflection of these songs, so generally I found her a strange character to read about. The bond between her and Snow is interesting when we think about how he acts with Katniss, so I found it interesting to see this developing.

Overall, I don’t even know if I enjoyed this book, to be honest. I think I just wanted to read it to give more context to The Hunger Games trilogy, and in this sense, it succeeded.

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  • Reply Sarah F 28/05/2020 at 3:29 pm

    Your review sums up exactly how I feel about it! It was so interesting but the end kind of came out of nowhere for me! If anything, it’s made me want another book set after the first to explain the parts I need more information on, maybe split into multiple characters perspectives? Don’t know if this makes sense, I just felt the need to talk about it 😂

  • Reply Tracey @PrintedWords& 28/05/2020 at 3:41 pm

    Thank you so much for this review!! I wasn’t sure if I wanted to pick this up only because I wasn’t sure what I’d be getting myself into, but this has given me a lot more clarity.

  • Reply Cielo @ Bellerose Reads 28/05/2020 at 8:49 pm

    I agree with most of the things you said here. I loved how the songs reflected Lucy Gray’s life experience and how in terms of worldbuilding, we got to see an accurate jump to the past of Panem. I just didn’t like the way things ended and I didn’t finish this book feeling like I understood Snow’s motives to become a tyrant.

  • Reply dearbookshelves 28/05/2020 at 10:50 pm

    Thanks for this review. I’ve been having a hard time expressing how I feel about this book because I just didn’t care a ton. The big things went by so fast it seemed.

  • Reply Vee 20/06/2020 at 12:00 am

    Great review! You captured my feelings about this novel perfectly, albeit in a more articulate way!
    I also wasnt a fan of the constant use of lyrics – but I did enjoy getting a better understanding of The Hanging Tree song!
    Overall, I enjoyed the novel for what it was but it felt less like a story and more like a history book that shows the development of The Hunger Games.

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