The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Posted August 12, 2020 by Amber in Reviews / 0 Comments

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

by Suzanne Collins

Series: The Hunger Games #0.5
Publisher: Scholastic Press on May 19, 2020
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
Target Age Group: Young Adult
Rating: ★★★½

Check out this book on Goodreads

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-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 outmaneuver 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 — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

 

Over the last several months, I have been pretty successful in avoiding any news, spoilers, or conversations about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.  This is very much by design – I wanted to go into this novel with no expectations.  I knew the world, I knew the MC was a much younger President Snow.  A small detail about something very minor managed to sneak into my consciousness, but otherwise, I managed to get off spoiler free.  Here are some immediate observations.

First, the characters.  There was a lot of initial uproar when it was learned the prequel would be from Snow’s POV.  For myself… I didn’t feel one way or the other about it?  In the original Hunger Games trilogy, we know very little about Coriolanus Snow outside the fact that he’s our nefarious villain.  Origin stories for villains typically only reach popular acclaim when they revolve around beloved villains – like The Joker.  Or basically anyone in the DC-verse.  Folx didn’t like Snow, and so hearing this surprise and hungrily desired prequel would be from his POV was a bit of a downer for some  For myself – didn’t care.

I will say that the characters are, in general, not very compelling.  I didn’t care in particular about Snow, or Tigris, or Sejaus, Lucy Gray, any of them.  There were moments of vague interest, seeing the names of minor characters from the original trilogy come into like (Tigris and Maude come particularly to mind here).  None of the characters were very nuanced or deep.  I wouldn’t say this was Collins’s strong point in The Hunger Games, either, but is stands out in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.  The most interesting character is Lucy Gray Baird, but even then, she’s not very complex.

What I particularly liked about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was the world.  Panem has always compelled me as one of the most interesting dystopian worlds in literature.  Seeing the 10th Hunger Games and how it compares to the 74th Hunger Games offers an interesting perspective on the development of this world.  There’s a clear trajectory heading towards the economic comfort of the Capitol and the glorification of the Hunger Games that we see in the original trilogy… but we’re not there yet.

In addition, we have a different discussion of patriotism and morality in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes that could only be possible from the POV of someone like Coriolanus Snow.  You need someone who believes in his choices and is selfish enough to pursue them – to whatever end – in order to paint this picture, and I think Collins did this masterfully.  The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes makes you angry because the logic Snow follows is twisted and immoral.  It’s ruthless.  This Capitol is a mix of people who have not recovered from the war and wish to continue it and punish the districts… and punishments for those who think otherwise.

I have mixed feelings about the overall quality of the book, but I did enjoy reading it and it’s left me thinking about the conversations Collins presented.  From the writing angle, I think the book was overly long.  Structurally, this felt like two different books:  the story of the 10th Hunger Games, and the story of Sejanus.  I was disappointed at how centric District 12 was once again in this book – there are so many other districts we haven’t seen!  And Lucy Gray Baird’s ending was very unsatisfying.

There is no universe where The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is as good as The Hunger Games.  But it reminds a fascinate behind-the-scenes look at this world.  And, yes, I’d definitely pick up other books Collins wrote in this world.  I’m dying for Haymitch’s story!  I was interested enough in the world to forgive the tedium that was seeing this world from Snow’s POV.  And I’d still recommend it to Hunger Games fans – you have to go in with no expectations and enjoy the ride.

Ratings Breakdown

Setting: ★★★★★
Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★
Writing: ★★★
Pacing: ★★★ 1/2
Personal Enjoyment: ★★★★

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Stays on the Shelf

This one stays for a couple of reasons.  For one, it’s simply part of a greater series that I really enjoy, and it’s nice to have the packaged set.  But the other is that, even though I wouldn’t say it’s a perfect pieces of literature, it’s interesting.  I enjoyed reading this book.

As I said in my review, this is not a masterpieces.  The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is not the type of book that would sweep the world the way The Hunger Games did, and I’d ben very surprised to see it translated to screen.  However.  I enjoyed revisiting Panem and seeing how the world developed in its own timeline.  There’s a lot of nods and uncovered origins in this book.  I don’t regret the time spent reading it, and I’d probably read it again.

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How did you feel about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes?  Did you enjoy it?  Did you dislike it?  Were you more like me and found things to both appreciate and dislike?  Let know in the comments!

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