This article contains mild spoilers for “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.” Read at your own risk!
Last year, when many authors came out with new content in some of our favorite worlds, Suzanne Collins emerged with a brand new installment in “The Hunger Games” series. “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a prequel novel that follows a young Coriolanus Snow, who serves as a mentor in the 10th Hunger Games to Lucy Gray Baird, the underdog from District 12. Coriolanus’ life is crumbling around him while his family is struggling to make ends meet. Being the winning mentor of this year’s Games means the chance to save his family and his future.
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When it was announced that Coriolanus was going to be the protagonist of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” there were many mixed feelings out there. I was one of the people who were unbelievably excited to get inside President Snow’s head. I’ve always been a huge fan of villains, and he certainly is one of my favorite villains of all time. I’m also such a die-hard fan of the original books that I forced myself to lower my expectations as much as possible because I knew it wasn’t going to be as good as “The Hunger Games.”
I’ve read “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” twice now, so I feel like I can finally give a more complete review of this book.
Lowering my expectations may have been the best move I made with this book because I was absolutely blown away by it! As I said, I think Coriolanus is fascinating to begin with, and “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” only made him more intriguing. People were worried that Collins would make him a sympathetic character by giving him his own narrative. However, this is not the case. Reading “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” didn’t make me feel sympathy for Snow at all; it just made him more understandable. Collins made sure to make him a very flawed individual. He’s entitled, self-centered, and has a god complex. More than likely, you aren’t going to find yourself rooting for Snow, but you might just find yourself dying to know what he’s going to do next.
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As such a die-hard fan of the original trilogy, my favorite element of this book was hands down seeing how we got from the 10th Hunger Games all the way to Katniss’ time. Seeing how rudimentary the Games started out was really interesting. In the 74th Hunger Games, everything is very intricate and well planned, yet the many hiccups in the 10th Games show how far the Capitol came in ensuring the most advanced version possible. It’s also terrifying that high school students were the ones coming up with some of the most crucial elements of the Games, including the Hunger Games themselves.
The characters were also really captivating. We’ve already discussed my feelings on Coriolanus, but there are so many others. For example, Sejanus Plinth, Coriolanus’ close friend, is a major standout character to me. On my first read, I wasn’t the biggest Sejanus fan. Though, on my second read, I liked him much more. He is one of the nicer characters in the books and he really wants to do right by the Districts. He is a great character foil for Coriolanus because they are such opposites in their points of view. All of Coriolanus’ other classmates made for a great cast of characters because they offered a new perspective on things, being children of Capitol citizens.
Something I was not a big fan of was the romance that blossomed between Coriolanus and Lucy Gray. It felt very forced and like it happened instantly. They were destined for failure because they are just too different from one another to ever make a relationship work. It added another layer to his character, but I wasn’t in the mood to watch President Snow fall in love.
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The pacing of this book was great up until the very end. The final two chapters felt super rushed. When I first read it, I barely grasped what was happening. If Collins would have taken a couple of extra pages to slow things down a bit, I think it would have really cemented this book as one of the strongest in the series. Although, I do think it’s one of the best she’s written.
I know my glowing review of this book is a pretty unpopular opinion among fans, but I would still recommend “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” to all fans of “The Hunger Games” series! Go into it with an open mind. It’s important that you remember this is not going to be like the original trilogy.
It has been announced that “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” will be getting a film, so you better start reading soon, collegiettes!