It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, 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.
As soon as Suzanne Collins announced that there would be a new book in The Hunger Games universe I was excited. Then, when it was announced it would be about Coriolanus Snow I was sceptical. I was worried that there would be a redemption story arc for President Snow and I wasn’t ready for that. This didn’t happen thank goodness but a lot of other things did.
My hopes for this book were an in-depth backstory about the rebellion against the Capitol and how the Hunger Games to be. This didn’t happen, there was an romance sub-plot, complex characters and an overall thrilling plot. I can see how this book isn’t something everyone will enjoy but personally I love it.
It certainly isn’t a perfect book. It is quite a bit too long and I did find myself slightly bored a few times. This wasn’t anything major but there were parts in this book where the pacing was incredible slow which made reading those sections quite tedious. But, then the ending felt quite rushed. The last sort of 100 pages seemed to fly by and as a reader you are left with a couple of unanswered questions, so it isn’t the most satisfying ending for a book. This for me is the one area this book is really lacking, I wish the pacing stayed quite fast-paced throughout and not just at random intervals.
I tried my best not to compare this book to the original trilogy but at times found this quite hard. I knew going into it that it would be completely different. Suzanne Collins once again had my attention quite quickly thanks to her engaging writing style that just made me want to keep reading. It really helped me remember why I loved the original series and made me want to pick that series back up as soon as I finished reading Ballad.
One thing I absolutely loved about this book was finding out the origins of the songs we are all so familiar with in The Hunger Games. Some people might see the amount of songs as excessive but I truly loved it.
Throughout The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes we don’t get to see the televised Hunger Games, with little to no first-hand experience of the action. Instead, we get to see the Hunger Games for what they truly are, a punishment for the citizens of Panem and let me tell you it is not pretty.
As much as I hate Coriolanus Snow, it was entertaining to see how much of a nasty, manipulative leader he has been even from being in his teens. It made me hate him even more. There is no redemption arc for him, just the way it should have been. He is evil and that is that.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is certainly political and I expected nothing less. There are so many obvious and a number of subtle hints to the original trilogy but also to what is happening in the world around us today. It is almost impossible to not draw connections to what is going on in our world at the minute and it is scary but I loved it.
If you go into this book excepting the next book in a Hunger Games series you will be disappointed. I recommend you go into this one with an open mind and let it be its own entity. This book is deep especially when you read between the lines. It is a deep insight into the human psyche and how someone can evolve to become evil. There are constant underlying themes of darkness and violence. So much so that at points this book feels as though it should have been classified as an adult book rather than a YA novel. I’d like to give the trigger warnings for the following, animal cruelty, abuse of human rights, hanging and mentioning of cannibalism.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. I enjoyed it in a completely different way than the original series. I would highly recommend it to fans of the trilogy, if you are looking to learn more about Panem and get an interesting insight into the backstory of a villain that doesn’t at all feel cliché.