The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The original Hunger Games trilogy held such a special place in my heart throughout my high school years. First, reading the 3 books in 2 days during finals (I still have no idea how I did that), then excitedly awaiting all four films as they came out.

The Hunger Games was probably the first series that solidified by love for reading. I had always been a reader, but this series changed things. I was consuming more books than I ever had before.

So when The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was first announced, I was extremely excited. The more time passed, the more worried and skeptical I became. Then, I saw the reviews.

Most people were not very impressed and this scared me. Did I want to risk it and read this and taint the original trilogy? So I delayed reading… I delayed for months until a particularly rough weekend a few weeks ago pushed me towards just picking up the book and reading.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows President Snow as an eighteen-year-old kid, pre-political glory. Much like the original series, it starts us off on the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. But things look a bit different. For one, capitol children were serving as mentors. For another, Snow is not the filthy rich political antagonist we all loved to hate. Mentoring the winning tribute means a ticket straight to University for Coriolanus (Coryo to his friends), and safety from poverty for his family. When he is assigned the female tribute of District 12, he is embarrassed and enraged, but slowly begins to change his tune once they meet…

No more summary, to avoid any spoilers for those of you who may not have read this quite yet.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I don’t know if it was because I had gone into it with such low expectations after previous reviews, but it definitely pleasantly surprised me. The character of Lucy Gray grew on me in ways I did not expect, and heck even Snow himself. I had to repeatedly remind myself that he grows into a ruthless dictator and not a character I should be loving. I gave it a 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Now… For the spoiler section. If you have not yet read this book and would like to avoid spoilers, this is the time for you to bow out. Join us again after you’ve finished it all up!

Throughout the novel, Suzanne Collins also referenced the original trilogy in many ways. While. many authors tend to lay it on too thick when it comes to the nostalgia factor in prequels, Collins achieved an incredible balance that left me wanting more. You see many little references here and there, such as familiar names like the Cranes and the Heavensbees, Lucky Flickerman who can only be a father to our very own Caesar Flickerman, and reference to the Katniss plant found outside of 12. I like how details are slipped in for the original fans, it’s a nice touch without a doubt.

What I loved most, however, is the origins of many different things we saw but never had explanations for in the original trilogy. How betting became a part of the games, how people hadn’t wanted to watch initially, the story behind the Hanging Tree and the Deep In the Meadow lullabies, the mockingjays and how they became such a different symbol of the revolution. It was so beautifully done and gives us a complete picture as to the life Katniss and Peeta are living many years down the line.

Seeing Coriolanus Snow in a new light was very fascinating for me. Many moments throughout, I felt bad for him. I even found myself rooting for him many times throughout reading, no matter how much I wanted to remind myself he does not turn out to be a good guy. The way Suzanne manages to remind us with the little things here and there who he is and who he will become is masterful. I even almost believed it when he started to run away with Lucy Gray at the end, wondering how in the world it could be explained that he was back in the future. Then… boom. He shoots, whether or not it was successful does not matter. He does it and I am immediately reminded he is fueled by his ambition and nothing else. And just like that, he goes right back where he came from.

Most importantly, however, Lucy Gray Baird and the Covey. They already have such a special place in my heart and it pains me not knowing what happens to them after the conclusion of our novel. Whether or not Lucy Gray was shot, if the Covey ever make it out of District 12, and what happened to them if they hadn’t. Days after finishing the novel, they are all I can think about.

When the book ended I found myself wanting more. What happened to Tigris? How does she go from being Snow’s loving cousin to the boutique owner we see in the original trilogy aiding the rebels? Do Ma and Mr. Plinth ever find out Coriolanus was the reason their son was executed? Is the penthouse they live in the same one they use as the tribute center all these years later? How much more did the Games evolve before we saw the version we knew?

Long story short, I want another one.

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