The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: YA Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Publication Date: May 19, 2020
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Series: The Hunger Games #0
AMBITION WILL FUEL HIM.
COMPETITION WILL DRIVE HIM.
BUT POWER HAS ITS PRICE.
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.
I reread the first three books to brush up on the story before this book came out, and it’s such a good thing I did, because I realized that I forgot so much from when I read the books originally. Also, I realized how much I loved them (and still do). So I kind of had mixed feelings about this book when I realized it was President Snow’s backstory. On one hand, I do feel that monsters are made, not born.
“‘People aren’t so bad, really,’ she said. ‘It’s what the world does to them.’”
But on the other hand, he’s just so evil that I didn’t really want to see him as a person and run the risk of empathizing with him. But, the psychology loving side of me had to see where this was going. Also, I’m the kind of person who commits to reading a full series (unless it’s horrifically bad — yeah, Twilight, I’m talking to you). So I was in for the long haul.
I’m glad that this came out way after the first three. Because if this came out first, I probably wouldn’t have rushed to read any more. The early versions of the Hunger Games were low-tech and slow-moving. It seemed like the only people who were actually invested in the outcome were the Tributes. Even people in the Capitol didn’t really care.
As the main character, I was determined not to like Coriolanus. But it was so hard not to like him as an 18 year old, at least at times. He’s poor, reeling from the war and the damage it has done to his family, the Capitol, and his way of life. He relies on his family name, his manners, and his upbringing to maintain his standing in society, which is basically his only ticket out of being poor. When he’s given the chance to be a mentor, it seems like his best chance to work his way back up the society ladder. But of course, it comes with a whole new set of complications.
Even though Coriolanus is pretty much portrayed as a pretty decent guy for the most part, there’s still a strong sense that everything he does is based on what is best for himself. He’s willing to do something nice for someone else, but is always scheming to find a way to turn it to his advantage. It seemed like he was warring between wanting to be a good guy and self-serving instincts, but the good guy part seemed stronger for the most part.
Lucy Gray Baird is definitely my favorite character in the book. She’s part of the Covey, a group of musicians. As a natural performer, she knows how to work an audience, and I can see how her influence may have begun to evolve the Hunger Games to become what they eventually became.
The pacing was fairly slow throughout the story, especially when compared to the other books in the series. The first three books were full of action, and there is actually very little action in the majority of this book. I was shocked to see how little action occurs in the actual Hunger Games, which was usually when the majority of the action occurred in other books. When the action finally picked up, it was close to the end of the book, and it was just rushed. I had hoped to see the trajectory of Coriolanus's change from a sweet, kind, and basically decent human to the monster that he became in the other books. Unfortunately, this book didn’t really give me those answers that I was hoping for. I ended up feeling kind of disappointed, since the other three books set the bar so high.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 10
Overall Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars