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
4 STARS // 7. 1 CAWPILE
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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.
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.