I was skeptical, very skeptical, about a prequel through the eyes of President Snow. But, I was so wrong. I don’t think this prequel could have been told any other way.
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, 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.
(Description from Amazon)
Suzanne Collins masterfully creates a timeline where we see Snow’s descent into ruthlessness. The boy we meet in the beginning of this novel is not the man we know from The Hunger Games, but he will show up very soon.
You almost feel bad for Snow, I started to and I had to remind myself that he will be a tyrannical dictator in a few decades. I love how well this is done. Collins makes you want to like Snow so bad, but she always slides in a piece of vileness or selfishness that reminds you of who you’re dealing with. The one thing he says that turns my stomach the most is when he calls his tribute this:
“His filly in a race, his dog in a fight. The more he had treated her as something special, the more she’d become human.”
How awful do you have to be to picture a person as your work animal? This stuck with me as a reminder of who Snow is. This character development was well executed.
Collins also references the past novels and I love it. There’s a reference about the rebellion catching fire and a reference to katniss plants in District 12. When it comes to prequels authors tend to lean hard into the nostalgia factor of the original books, but Collins doesn’t lay it on too thick, it is a subtle jab here and there. She also includes familiar names like the Cranes and the Heavensbees. I like how details are slipped in for the original fans, it’s a nice touch.
I saw a lot of people wondering if a prequel was necessary, and I think it was a necessity that we didn’t know we needed. This novel humanizes the citizens of The Capitol, but much like Snow, it doesn’t do it too much. The Capitol is still the bad guy, but it shows that The Capitol went through hardships and you can see how a group of people who think they’re superior could jump to something as vicious as the Hunger Games. This book creates history that gives Panem a complete start to finish. We get to see how we got to where Katniss is.
We also get to see an earlier version of District 12. The version we get to see hasn’t slipped into the same darkness that Katniss grows up in. District 12 isn’t an oasis by any means, but it is in better condition than the original trilogy. We can watch as District 12 begins to eat itself, the rebels are actively being executed, The Games are intensifying, and freedoms are being taken away even more. It’s the perfect lead up to what happens next.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes earns an easy 5/5 stars.
Have you read it yet? Are you going to? Let me know in the comments!
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