I normally do not review books in my columns, but with such a high-profile release as the “Hunger Games” prequel, I had to make an exception.
The novel, called “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” was released May 19. I finally had time to finish reading it last week, and surprisingly enough, it lived up to my expectations.
I say “surprisingly enough” because given my love for the original series, I had lofty expectations for this new installment. But in true Suzanne Collins fashion, the story kept me engaged from the first page.
What’s it about?
In case you missed my earlier column written when the book was announced, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is set 64 years before the original “Hunger Games” series, during the 10th Hunger Games. The book tells the origin story of Coriolanus Snow, better known as the evil President Snow in the original series.
When Collins announced that the book would focus on Snow, the fan reaction was mixed, to say the least. While some, like myself, were curious to see how Snow became such a ruthless leader, others had no interest in reading about such a hated character.
Despite the initial uncertainty among some fans, many readers appear to be satisfied. With a four-star rating on Goodreads and a nearly five-star audience rating on Google, the book has garnered few negative reviews in the nearly three weeks since its release.
Though I don’t believe the prequel is quite as good as the original novels, it is a solid, fast-paced work that I found nearly impossible to put down. Right from the start, I could see how Snow would become such a controlling, self-centered leader, who is much more like a dictator than a president.
Collins does portray the teenage Snow as somewhat relatable, though. He faces many of the same stressors — impressing his teachers, getting a university scholarship, etc. — that many teenagers face in the real world.
One big difference, though, is his involvement in the Hunger Games, a yearly tournament in which two children from each of the country’s 12 districts fight to the death on national television. Snow serves as a mentor to Lucy Gray Baird, the female tribute from District 12. This is an obvious nod to the original series, in which the main character, Katniss Everdeen, is also a female tribute from District 12.
The story is told in three parts: “The Mentor,” “The Prize,” and “The Peacekeeper.” I found the second part to be the most fast-paced, but the first and last parts are far from a bore. Readers will learn how several elements of the original series came to be, including Snow’s love for roses, the “The Hanging Tree” song and the Hunger Games itself.
All that said, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a must-read for those who enjoyed the original series and also serves as a satisfying introduction for a new generation of fans.
What about you?
Do you plan to read the new prequel, or have you already finished it? If so, email me your thoughts at [email protected]