Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Length: 517 pages
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Synopsis: It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 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, it’s fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to our charm, outwit, and outmanoeuvre his fellow students who 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 faces are intertwined- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favour 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.
The only fair way to start off this is review is to talk about expectations, I loved The Hunger Games and I expected this to match my love, even surpass it. I had such high hopes. I preordered it. I sat looking at the window waiting for the postman to deliver it.
I have a lot of thoughts about this book. A lot. I’m going to try and condense them down so this review isn’t one long ramble, but it will probably be a mess. I even made notes, in my little notepad to help me write this review.
What I found really interesting about this novel was that we see the Hunger Games in its infancy. Not the well oiled machine we know it as when Katniss enters the arena. And I loved reading about how the betting came into it, and the sponsors and treating the tributes like celebrities. I wanted more of this. It touched on the brutality, with the tributes performing for food as they were being starved but it didn’t go far enough. I thought for a while the games would actually almost like a character in the book, but unfortunately that wasn’t so. When Lucy Gray actually gets enters the game, it just wasn’t exciting. I know they were meant to be a bit messy and haphazard because of when the book was set, but did it have to be dull? They still could’ve been exciting, but they just never reached there potential.
Obviously we’re following Snow as our main protagonist, and I know some people had an issue with the book being about him as they didn’t feel he deserved a redemption story and I think it’s safe to say he didn’t get one. He didn’t come across as nice, or evil. He was a bit meh to be honest. I didn’t connect to him at all. And it was hard to distance young Coriolanus from President Snow. And then we had Lucy Gray, who at the beginning I really liked. I thought this is where it gets interesting, she’s feisty, smart and knows how to play the game. In fact, she sort of invited a lot of the things we attribute to the hunger games. But as the novel went on, she lost her spark. She was reduced to Snows love interest. There was also a character called Sejan, who is Snows friend, who I found incredibly annoying. I think the end of his story was supposed to shocking, upsetting and a catalyst for Snow, but ultimately I didn’t care. There was also a lot of other characters in this book, and I was getting confused who was who and who was a tribute or mentor and in the end I gave up caring.
For a huge part of this book to work, you had to believe in the romance Collins creates between Snow and Lucy Gray, and I can say I didn’t. In part 1 I definitely believed they had a connection, I just didn’t know what it was. And I wanted her to win the games and for them to be reunited but for me the romance just didn’t take off. Which then made the second half of the book fall a little flat in that aspect. I was just sitting there thinking ‘Am I really reading a book about Snows love life?’
There’s no doubt in my mind that Suzanne is a fantastic writer, I like the hints throughout that connected us to the Panem we know. And I think she chose the right time to set this book, but it was lacking excitement and intensity. We all know Suzanne can end chapters with brilliant cliffhangers (can we talk about Chapter 14 in The Hunger Games, I couldn’t turn the page fast enough) but in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, they didn’t have that same affect. I could recognise that she was trying to build up excitement and momentum, but it just didn’t happen. Suzanne also wrote a lot, A LOT, of songs for the book and while the song that ends of page 171 was beautiful and made me cry, by the end of had to read another song I would’ve entered the Games. It was to many.
Now shall we talk about the ending? Shall we? Oh trust me, we are going to. I guess all have to say it WHAT? I was wondering if the end would save the book. If it was building up to something shocking, some big twist but nope. It felt like it was but in fact it was strange ending, I actually reread it because I thought I’d missed something for that to happen, but again, nope. It was strange. I’m not saying too much to try and avoid spoilers. Also let’s be honest, it’s hard to read a book like this because ultimately we know how it ends, he doesn’t up with Lucy Gray and he becomes President.
Also because there was so much of the book I didn’t connect to like the romances, and the choices made by Snow and Lucy Gray at the end, I was just wonder if it’s enough to make Snow what he is in The Hunger Games. Or are we going to get another Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book which will take his story further?
You know, when I was on page 323 a friend of mine messaged me and asked if I was enjoying it, and I replied that I don’t know. If your 3/4 of a way into one of your most anticipated reads of the year and you’re not sure if you’re enjoying it, I think it’s safe to say you’re probably not. But in saying that, I kept reading and parts of it I enjoyed. I would’ve liked the Hunger Games section to more detailed. I think ultimately I was just left feeling was this return to Panem justified? Was The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes actually needed?
Ahhh I hope it didn’t ramble on to much and it made some sort of sense. Do you agree with me? Or do you think I’ve missed the point of the book? Did you love it? Let me know.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is out now.
Until the next review