- Catherine Downen
Review for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Suzanne Collins has released the prequel novel to The Hunger Games series and to say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. I wanted so much more from this book, but that’s not to the fault of the author. I believe that means she’s done her job well with the original trilogy. I know I’m not alone in feeling disappointed or underwhelmed from this book. As an author I understand you won’t be able to give everyone what they want but…I don’t think she gave anyone what they wanted.
Spoiler Free Part:
The book is GOOD. It’s well written and immerses you in the world of Panem over 60 years before the original trilogy. I love Suzanna Collins, she’s the author that inspired me to start writing, so I already knew I’d love the way she had written the book. My only hang up on the writing of the novel is that it’s told in third person, which I try to avoid at all costs. I much prefer 1stperson.
I would recommend the fans of The Hunger Games read this book if they are just dying to get a little more of story in Panem. There are small things that tie into the main trilogy that I, as a super fan, really enjoyed. The plot of the book is unoriginal until part 3. It felt extremely predictable because it follows the usual time-line of the games with no real surprises. Still enjoyable, but not exciting. Part three is the first time we FINALLY get some original storyline in parts of Panem that were never shown before and I actually felt invested with that part of the book. I would have much preferred more of this type of story for a prequel.
Characters are SPOT ON though! I loved every character. They were all unique and had their own storylines. I never felt confused or lost in who they are or what they were each going through. I think the only part that fell flat for me, as far as characters go, were the tributes. We only get information on 4 or 5 of them really. However, I do think that was intentional. One of the underlying plots or motives for the Capitol in this book was to find a way to make the games more engaging and force more people to watch them. So by not knowing the tributes in as much detail it drives their point further of needing to make changes to the games.
I don’t think this book needed to be made into a movie, it’s not nearly exciting or engaging enough to call for that, but maybe the movie will bring it to life better than the actual book did.
OKAY!! Time to DIVE IN. I’m a super fan of The Hunger Games, so I have LOTS of opinions.
Starting with Part 1 of the book: (5/10 STARS)
I think my biggest pet peeve with the entire book is the beginning actually. The very first chapter opens with the reaping for The Hunger Games. Funny… that sounds familiar…that’s exactly how The Hunger Games started. I hate that she did that, like why start these two books with the same hook? Surely she could have found something new to hook the readers with. Just imagine, the movie for the book opens up with Snow getting ready to go watch the Reaping…just like The Hunger Games where Katniss was getting ready for the reaping. I don’t know, it just felt very “that’s been done before.” The rest of part one was OKAY. Nothing crazy. Think tribute interviews and parades and you pretty much can just skip on to part two. They are done differently than the original trilogy I GUESS. Instead of done differently they’re just half done because it’s the beginning of creating these elements of the games. The best part of Part 1 was the introduction to each of the characters. It definitely builds a great foundation for the rest of the book. Some names that stood out to me that I recognized and saw the tribute to the original series were Flickerman, Heavensbee, Crane, Snow, and Tigris (though there may be more I missed!).
Part 2: (3/10 STARS)
The Hunger Games…District 12, the underdog, wins.. okay skip to part 3.
Literally NOTHING new happens in this part. It was a HUGE disappointment as far as the plot goes. The story is told from Snow’s point of view so we are just watching the games with him instead of living it through the tributes, much less dramatic. Also, there are hardly any games! Everyone just hides in tunnels all the time until one of the bigger tributes kills them when they come out for food. It’s very anti-climactic. The most exciting part of this section of chapters was when Sejanus ran into the arena and Snow had to go in after him to bring him out. And the book had a huge build up to this moment just for it to be over and forgotten about later. I enjoyed the little things Snow did to help Lucy win, and clearly those are important factors to the plot. It was intriguing to watch him battle helping her by defying the Capitol. He’s at a pivotal point in his life where he has to decide if the way the Capitol operates is correct or if he should be trying to change things. Suzanna Collins does a great job not over emphasizing this internal struggle and it makes it feel more genuine as he decides what he wants to do. But this was BARELY touched on in part two so I’m not giving any credit here. On to part three!
PART 3: (9/10 STARS)
The saving grace of this book, OH MY GOSH. This was the book I wanted to read. When part two ended with Snow being sent to be a Peacekeeper in District 12 I was like “WAIT WHAT?” which is exactly what this book needed. Up until this point, everything was very predictable and had been done in the previous books. I was so happy to see some original plot finally come into play. Also, I loved that she found a way to put us back in District 12. This is when we REALLY get a lot of things to tie into The Hunger Games with places like the Mayor’s house, the bakery, the Seam, and the Hob being mentioned. The only thing Collins left out here is working in some people from District 12, like Haymitch’s family or maybe Greasy Sae from the Hob. (Though they may have been there and maybe I missed it? I read part three so fast because it was actually entertaining!) While Snow works as a peacekeeper we really see him struggle between the way of the districts or the way of the Capitol and which way is correct. Collins ties it all in nicely with having Snow be in love with the District 12 girl, Lucy Gray.
The best part of the ENTIRE book for me was the Hanging Tree. This was one of my favorite songs from The Hunger Games and the movie, and I could not believe she found a way to work it in. Not only did they sing the song, but she actually wrote out the hanging that inspired the song and we saw Lucy write it and perform it, such a great moment! The additional mention of the mocking jay's was also a nice touch, though Snow talking about his hatred for them repeatedly felt a bit force. The first time he says it, it's funny and ironic. The 100th time he says it, it's like, "we get it Collins, you're trying to be symbolic."
Things I hated from part 3? WELL, just a couple things upset me, though I don’t know if I’d say I hated them. In part three Lucy and her friends take Snow to a lake out in the woods where they find katniss (the plant). This is clearly the lake Collins mentioned Katniss and her father going to in the original series (though you wouldn’t know that if you didn’t read the books.) I kind of hated that Snow had been here. I really liked that being this spot that Katniss and her father had and really didn’t appreciate Collins adding Snow to its back story. ALSO the fact that the murder weapon that could have ended Snow entirely is AT THE BOTTOM of the lake Katniss and her father spent so much time at and that they swam in. Like noooo every time I think of that part of The Hunger Games all I will think now is SWIM DOWN AND FIND ALL THE GUNS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE LAKE.
Additionally, some of the foreshadowing lines here about the katniss plant and Katniss the girl were a bit cheesy and uncalled for. Like yeah, it was cool to have it but it wasn’t necessary and honestly felt forced. But then Lucy sings the meadow song here and it made me so mad that happened. While I like having something from the original series to pick up on, that’s Rue’s song! I really didn’t appreciate it being here, and wish she hadn’t done that either. I feel like there were some things in the original series I had made special to certain characters (i.e. the lake to Katniss’s father and the meadow song for rue) that I really didn’t want them to get a life with Snow prior to that.
Ending of the book:
This book wrapped up REALLY well. We finally see Snow decide that he’s 100% Capitol and is ready to defend their way of life over anything else, including his love for Lucy Gray. I really liked the way it’s revealed and we see Snow make the decision when he considers killing Lucy to save himself. It’s definitely the turning point for him as a character. AND THEN the rat poison at the end was a great touch! Like just when you think he’s peaked he does something even crazier and more evil and it really shows you where his character is going and ties in perfectly with where his character is in The Hunger Games. Another thing that Collins did really well with the end of this book was explaining how every little detail from the original series came to be: like the games, and the mandatory viewing of them in the districts, the training centers, the tribute parades and interviews, the fences around district 12 to keep people in (in my opinion to keep them from finding Lucy Gray and the weapons in the lake!) and the victor villages and their ways of life. All of it was tied in nicely and can be explained back to Snow, though I don’t know if I agree that’s how it should be. This way Collins is giving Snow 100% credit for building the entirety of Panem and The Hunger Games that we see in the original trilogy, though I think it would have been more realistic to say he had a team helping him with ideas like Gamemakers and what not.
Part three is the only part of this book worth reading. I would recommend this book just for that reason. I loved so many parts of it and really enjoyed getting to read another book written by Collins.
Overall rating: 6/10
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