Review: The Hunger Games Prequel: ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’
Rachael Powell reviews Suzanne Collins latest book: ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’
It is surprising that very few people that I have spoken to were aware that Suzanne Collins had written the prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy – ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’. Perhaps it wasn’t marketed well, or maybe people just are not interested. Needless to say, when I heard there was a prequel to the trilogy that I had adored as a teenager, I bought the book and started reading it straight away.
Firstly, the hardback book is beautiful. The symbol on the dustcover looks curiously similar to the mockingjay symbol. And – most importantly – the book smells divine.
The book is about Coriolanus Snow. Coriolanus is the president of Panem in ‘The Hunger Games’, when Katniss Everdeen enters the 74th hunger games. ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’ is set 64 years previously, during the tenth hunger games. The tenth hunger games was very different to the 74th as the games have not yet captured the reality TV aspect and as a consequence most people are not interested in it.
In ‘The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes’, Coriolanus is a student at the university, and is given the task to mentor a female tribute through the hunger games. He is also given assignments to create ways to make the games more engaging. This is what made the book good for me: it explained the rationale behind the hunger games, gave more history and context, and showed how the games evolved to became as it was when Katniss and Peeta played them 64 years later. The politics student in me *loved* the references to political philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke made through the novel and quoted before the first page.
It was interesting to meet Coriolanus Snow aged about 18 when I already knew him as a villain in his 80s. To begin with, I found myself liking him – or at least not disliking him. Suzanne Collins makes Coriolanus initially appear innocent and likeable, whilst setting clear foundations that would lead to his villainous character later in life, and begin to arise toward the end of the book.
Suzanne Collins makes Coriolanus initially appear innocent and likeable, whilst setting clear foundations that would lead to his villainous character later in life
The book is long. It almost felt like reading two books – the first half was about the tenth hunger games, and the second half was what happened after them. A lot of scenes felt unnecessary, or could have easily been combined with other scenes. Some of the writing I found a little clumsy, but perhaps I’m not used to reading young adult fiction where plot points and descriptions are made quite blatantly.
Overall, it’s well worth the read if you are or were a Hunger Games fan. I am not convinced that it would make much sense reading it if you are not already familiar with the trilogy. If, like me, you were obsessed with the Hunger Games, then you’ll love the references to mockingjays and songs that are made in the novel. Don’t expect the prequel to be as good as the trilogy – whilst I loved reading it, it certainly doesn’t have the same impact as The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay. I rate it about a 7.5 out of 10, but take that with a pinch of salt as I hold the Hunger Games very dear to my heart.