By Suzanne Collins
“And if the war is over, then technically the killing should be over, shouldn’t it?”
When I preordered The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I had my doubts. I knew a few things going into The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes: 1. Snow was the focus, 2. Nothing was going to change my feelings about Snow, 3. I wanted back into the chaos of Panem. I was not disappointed. Be warned; if you want a sweet trip of nostalgia, do not read this book.
So what happened?
It has been ten years since the war has ended. The Hunger Games are still rough in design, but this year a new element is introduced- each tribute is assigned a mentor. Mentors are selected from the Capitol’s Academy. Coriolanus Snow is chosen to mentor a district 12 girl, Lucy Gray. This mentorship is his chance to restore wealth to the Snow family and secure his place within the Capitol.
Coriolanus Snow is trying to survive, while all those around him prosper. The majority of the Snow family is dead. He lives on the verge of poverty with his cousin, Tigris, and their grandmother. Tigris works day and night to provide enough for the family. The pressure is not only her but Coriolanus to keep up the Snow reputation and rebuild the family wealth.
Being assigned to a district 12 tribute is a slap in the face. Everyone knows district 12 tributes never last. Lucy Gray is not different than the tributes before her, other than her ability to sing. By exploding her stage presence, Coriolanus makes Lucy Gray a one of a kind tribute.
I was quickly engulfed in the savagery of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. From cannibalism, brutal killings, to the cutthroat hierarchy of the Capitol, there were few dull moments. If I had to describe this book in one word, I would say survival. Each character is just trying to survive.
Collins is quick to construct the contrast of the struggle to stay relevant in the Capitol to the effort to survive in the districts/games. This will leave you wondering if the Capitol people really have better lives than those in the districts.
Coriolanus may not have been a tribute in the games, but he was most defiantly used by the Capitol. You get a real sense of his influence on the games/the Capitol, knowing what they develop into 64 years later. There are a few “a-ha, that’s how that came to be,” which made those scenes fun to read.
What made his character frustratingly beautiful was that even though he saw the Capitol corruption, he still made a conscious effort to protect it. Coriolanus had chances to escape the horrors of his aristocratic life, but he didn’t. Every move he made was a calculated strike to advance his position in society.
Okay, enough about him. The Ballad of Songbird and Snakes offered an interesting look at how tributes/the Hunger Games once were handled. In short, like animals to slaughter. The brutally of this book felt more savage than The Hunger Games. The game is not the polished entertainment we see in the future. Instead, the game is rough and focused on the original purpose- to punish the districts.
While I really enjoyed this book, the third part of the book really dragged on for me. I cannot speak more to that without spoiling the story.
Should you read this book?
Yes! It is a peek into the craziness that shaped not only the hunger games but also the Capitol. It is not an exciting story of rebellion, but rather a story of a corrupt society and someone finding their place in it.
Have you read the Hunger Games? Do you plan to read A Ballad of Song Birds and Snakes?”