The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels here:

The Hunger Games | Catching Fire | Mockingjay

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was written by Suzanne Collins and first published in 2020. It is a prequel to the popular The Hunger Games Trilogy and focuses on a young Coriolanus Snow as he mentors a tribute in the 10th Annual Hunger Games. Although it is set 64 years before the original trilogy, I would strongly recommend reading The Hunger Games (2008), Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010) first to fully appreciate what is going on.

Coriolanus Snow is the heir of the Snow family, but since the war his family have sunk into poverty. In order to provide for his Grandmother and cousin, Tigris, he needs to win a grant to study at the Capitol’s university. Failure to do so will mean that they will certainly lose their apartment. Luckily, an opportunity has arisen. Coriolanus has been selected to mentor the District 12 tribute in the upcoming Hunger Games. If he makes a good impression, he will certainly secure the funding that he needs.

While Coriolanus does not expect that his tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, will win the games, he is pleased when her talent for singing makes her a star in the Capitol. Desperately, he seeks a way to use this to his advantage and come out on top with popularity alone. However, as Coriolanus spends more time with Lucy Gray, he comes to realise that he actually wants to her to win. Although Lucy Gray does not look like much when compared to some of the stronger tributes, he begins to plan a strategy that will allow her to defeat them by any means necessary.

Yet his victory will not be easy. Hampered by the psychotic Gamesmaster and his association with Sejanus Plinth, a classmate who is oddly sympathetic with the Districts, Coriolanus must use all of his wits and cunning to succeed. If he cannot win a place at University, how will he ever succeed in his ambition of one day ruling Panem…

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Mockingjay

Mockingjay

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier novels in the series. You can read my reviews of these books [here] and [here].

I really don’t think this novel needs much of an introduction. Mockingjay was written by Suzanne Collins and is the third and final instalment of the infinitely popular The Hunger Games Trilogy. It was first published in 2010 and follows on directly from the events of The Hunger Games (2008) and Catching Fire (2009), so you really have to read the previous novels to fully appreciate it.

Katniss Everdeen has managed to survive two consecutive Hunger Games only to be thrown into far greater danger. Following her rescue from the Quarter Quell arena, she is taken to District 13. Although the Capitol long maintained that this District had been destroyed, it actually hides a subterranean bunker where a rebel army has been growing.

On learning that the Capitol has firebombed her home in District 12, Katniss agrees to become the rebel’s Mockingjay – the figurehead of their forces – in order to inspire the soldiers to victory. To secure her new position, she only has a few conditions for the rebel leader, President Coin. Of these, the most important to her is that Peeta remains safe. He has been taken captive by the Capitol and she fears what will become of him no matter which side wins.

However, Katniss soon discovers that she’s still just a pawn and only the players have changed. Although all she wants is revenge against President Snow, it won’t be as simple as she first believed. Snow is safe in the heart of the Capitol, protected by his Peacekeepers and streets laced with bombs and Mutts. To kill him, she must enter into one final Game. One where a false move could spell death for everyone that she cares about…

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Catching Fire

Catching Fire

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for its prequel, The Hunger Games. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, this series really needs no further introduction. Just in case you have just ended a lengthy career as a hermit, Catching Fire was written by Suzanne Collins and first published in 2009. It forms the second part of The Hunger Games trilogy, a series set in a dystopian society which draws its entertainment from a yearly event in which twenty-four teenagers are forced to battle to the death. This novel is preceded by The Hunger Games (2008) and followed by Mockingjay (2010) and you really need to read its prequel before this one as this story does not stand on its own.

Following from her victory in the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen foolishly believed that the Capitol would leave her alone to get along with her life. It is not until she receives a surprise visit from President Snow that she realises how wrong she is. Her decision to save Peeta in the Games has been viewed as an act of defiance against the Capitol and sparked civil unrest within some of the Districts. Snow believes that the only way to quell an uprising is for Katniss to show them that her intention was no such thing. The only way to do this is to pretend that she’s in love with Peeta for the rest of her life, making any relationship with Gale impossible.

Fearful that her family and friends will otherwise reap the consequences, Katniss goes along with the plan and tries to make her love for Peeta seem believable to all of Panem. However, it is far too late for the revolution to be halted. Violence spreads through the streets as the downtrodden turn on the Peacekeepers. Desperate to stop the impending war, Snow announces a special Hunger Games to mark their seventy-fifth anniversary. Instead of reaping the Tributes from the District children, this time they will reap them from the surviving Victors.

As the only female Victor of District 12, Katniss immediately realises that Snow’s plan is to have her killed. The other Tributes have all been friends for years and such friendships will be hard to overcome when they face in the arena. As her enemies this time are so much stronger and more experienced than in the previous games, Katniss must work harder than ever to forge alliances within the area. Failure to do so will mean certain death.

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Over the last few years, you may have noticed an increase in popularity in Young Adult novels which have a dystopian science fiction setting. I reviewed one of these – Moira Young’s Blood Red Road – last month and Veronica Roth’s Divergent series has become increasingly talked about in the lead up to its forthcoming film adaptation. The rise in popularity of this genre can be traced back to The Hunger Games.

The Hunger Games was written by Suzanne Collins and was first published in 2008. It forms the first part of a series of books which are collectively known as The Hunger Games Trilogy, also containing Catching Fire (2009) and Mockingjay (2010).

The novel is a first person narrative from the perspective of a sixteen year old girl named Katniss Everdeen. In Katniss’s world – Panem – the poorer people live it outlying Districts that surround the opulent Capitol. As a punishment for a rebellion seventy-four years previously, it has been decreed that every year each district will surrender one boy and one girl to the Capitol. These tributes are chosen by a random lottery and are destined to be pitted against each other in a televised event known as the Hunger Games – a battle to death from which only one victor can emerge.

When her sister’s name is drawn at the Reaping, Katniss immediately volunteers to take her place. Along with her male counterpart – Peeta Mellark – she is transported to the Capitol in order to undergo the combination of public appearances and training that precede the games. During one such interview, Peeta reveals that he has always been in love with Katniss – much to her horror. Katniss sees this as a psychological attack to give him the edge in the arena, yet the people of Capitol eat it up.

Under the instruction of her mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, Katniss is forced to play up this angle, presenting herself and Peeta as star-crossed lovers in order to earn favour with the viewers. In the Hunger Games, such favour means sponsorship and the chance of being awarded gifts that will be essential to her survival. To be without sponsors is to enter the arena at a disadvantage against twenty-three other teenagers, all of whom are desperate to kill you…

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