A review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – Suzanne Collins

When Suzanne Collins announced she was releasing a new book set in the world of The Hunger Games, we were all excited at what the next installment would bring. And then we got the news that it would focus on a young President Snow, and I’ll admit, I was quite deflated. For me, there were other characters, other events I’d have rather read about. But hey ho no point being too negative, I had to give the book a go, and then make a judgement!

51901147._SX318_SY475_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.

And so here we are, 10 years after the release of Mockingjay, with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. This book is definitely a story of two parts – the first quite gripping and insightful, whilst the second half seemed to seek to undo any of the work of the first.
The first half we’re introduced to you young Coriolanus Snow, hit hard by the war, he’s vying for a scholarship to University that he can’t afford otherwise. As I’m forever the sceptic, I was wary that we’d be made to be sympathetic with Snow, our known villain from the original trilogy and that would be a book I just would not want to read. Thankfully, this wasn’t that, as much as it obviously sheds a light (not a rose-tinted one) on Snow’s life and upbringing – it somewhat shows us the beginnings of the man we met in The Hunger Games; he’s slightly less ruthless, a tad more selfless, but we see the starts of his self-interest, the seeds that grow. It all starts to click into place.

Back to my main point – yes the first half is full to the brim of character development, character introductions and intrigue – and of course the main event; The 10th Hunger Games that Snow is mentoring in. And I really enjoyed it, it was well paced and entertaining – whilst injecting some needed emotional and thought-provoking moments. I absolutely tore through the first 250+ pages.
And then we get to the second part of the book – no spoilers! – and any momentum built to that point completely stutters to a halt. The tempo utterly changes, the tone changes and even Snow’s character for most part, changes, all at the turn of a page. Suddenly this actual multi-faceted Snow absolutely regresses, and whilst for some parts you can see and justify the thought process and Snow’s intent – however, for the most part, for me, it was quite instantaneous, especially in the closing chapters.

“The strain of being a full-fledged adult every day had grown tiresome.”

I am aware I’m being quite negative, and that’s deceptive as I actually liked it. But I guess it could raise the question of how much a prequel can engage you – one about a character you know will survive? Because this may be what irked me the most about the last third of the book. There was only so much tension that could be built as we know Snow survived, so I never felt fully invested in it.

But I am going to stop ranting! I loved going back to the world of Panem, and reading about the war and the fall out from a different perspective.
Meeting Lucy Gray was a definite high-point, shwas without a doubt the most intriuging point of the book, she grabs your attention from the moment you meet her, and I doubt anyone would not fall in love with her. She was charming, she was vulnerable and her songs were a welcome highlight of the book. I probably would’ve preferred the book if it was from her POV rather than Snow’s.
Another new favourite was Seranus Plinth – a good counterbalance to Snow’s character, always making him question is intuition, his morals. They had a strange, strained ‘friendship’ that brought out the best and worst of our main character. Whilst yes, he was somewhat annoying and perhaps a tad too righteous – he was still a very welcome addition to the book in my eyes.

Overall, I know I’ve ranted a lot, but it’s far easier to be critical than to heap praise as it’s the parts you don’t like that tend to stick in your mind more. But I did give this 4 stars on Goodreads because as much as I’ve moaned, I honestly did enjoy this book!

What were your thoughts? I’m very much up for a discussion about it!

 

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