TOP reviews The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel)
An Amazon Best Book of May 2020: If you read The Hunger Games in one sitting, settle in for the long haul once more—because The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is nearly impossible to put down. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place a decade after the war between the Districts and the Capitol, and even the “winning” side is still trying to recover. For the tenth anniversary, the Head Gamemaker brings in students from the Academy to act as a mentor to each of the tributes, and one of these students is 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow—President Snow, when we met him in The Hunger Games. Snow gets assigned the girl tribute from District 12, an underdog to be sure, but Lucy Gray Baird is her own flavor of Katniss—very different in style and personality, but no less compelling. You want her to succeed. And I felt the same about Snow, who, while still arrogant and entitled, finds himself questioning the purpose of the Games and the treatment of the tributes. There’s so much I want to tell you about this novel, but I really want you to experience it all for yourself, because The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is incredibly exciting, thought-provoking, and relevant. Now please hurry up and read it because I’m dying to talk to someone about this book. —Seira Wilson, Amazon Book Review
Praise for The Hunger Games: “I couldn’t stop reading.” — Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly “The Hunger Games is amazing.” — Stephenie Meyer”Brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced.” — John Green, New York Times Book Review Praise for Catching Fire: “Whereas Katniss kills with finesse, Collins writes with raw power.” — Time Magazine “Collins expertly blends fantasy, romance and political intrigue.” — People Magazine Praise for Mockingjay: “Fans will be happy to hear that Mockingjay is every bit as complex and imaginative as Hunger Games and Catching Fire.” — Entertainment Weekly “Suspenseful… Collins’ fans, grown-ups included, will race to the end.” — USA Today “At its best the trilogy channels the political passion of 1984, the memorable violence of A Clockwork Orange, the imaginative ambience of The Chronicles of Narnia and the detailed inventiveness of Harry Potter.” — New York Times Book Review“Unfolding in Collins’ engaging, intelligent prose and assembled into chapters that end with didn’t-see-that-coming cliffhangers, this finale is every bit the pressure cooker of its forebears. [Mockingjay] is nearly as shocking, and certainly every bit as original and thought-provoking, as The Hunger Games. Wow.” — Los Angeles Times* “This concluding volume in Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy accomplishes a rare feat, the last installment being the best yet, a beautifully orchestrated and intelligent novel that succeeds on every level.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
About the Author
Suzanne Collins is the author of the bestselling Underland Chronicles series, which started with Gregor the Overlander. Her groundbreaking young adult novels, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay, were New York Times bestsellers, received wide praise, and were the basis for four popular films. Year of the Jungle, her picture book based on the year her father was deployed in Vietnam, was published in 2013 to great critical acclaim. To date, her books have been published in fifty-three languages around the world.
TOP reviews The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (A Hunger Games Novel)
You might want to take a peek at your Kindle price vs. the hard cover price.
Here’s a hint: An ebook costs next to nothing to publish, and should not cost more than the hard cover!
I seldom pre-order a book, but I loved The Hunger Games even if I am not a fantasy books buff. Everything The Hunger Games book was this book is not. The writing is rambling, making it hard to keep interest in the events since the characters are not really engaging. The vivid imagery of The Hunger Games is absent from the new book, to just flash a glimpse here or there. I wish I waited to see the reviews before I bought.
In the time of Katniss Everdeen, Coriolanus Snow is the tyrannical president of Panem, a cruel man who uses the Hunger Games as a weapon against any who would rebel. But once, long ago, he was just a aristocratic teenage boy in the Capitol, raised in the shadow of a terrifying rebellion that gave birth to the Hunger Games.
“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is a look back at the early days of Panem’s dystopian tyranny, and a glimpse of how Snow turned into the president he would later become. This tale is a very different one from Suzanne Collins’ other Hunger Games tales, whether it’s the third-person narrative, the cold and ambitious protagonist, or the general feeling of hopelessness and ruin that you know is not really going to get any better.
Born to the purple but raised in poverty, Coriolanus Snow is the only hope his grandmother and cousin Tigris have for any kind of comfort and dignity. He has to acquire a university prize and brilliant career in the upper echelons of the Capitol’s society, without ever betraying that he and his family are surviving on boiled cabbage and old outgrown clothes. If not, the Snow family will descend into… well, being ordinary poor people in the Districts, and Snow can’t bear the thought.
But then he’s dealt a blow. When various young mentors are assigned to the Hunger Games tributes, he’s given the girl tribute from District 12: Lucy Gray Baird, a strange girl with a luscious singing voice and plenty of stage presence. Though he thinks she’s crazy at first, Snow is determined to make the best of his assignment, and he even begins to believe that Lucy Gray’s charm and charisma can somehow help him.
The days before the Tenth Hunger Games are cruel to both the mentors and the tributes – there are bombings, venomous snakes, torture, and the psychopathic Dr. Gaul. But Snow’s efforts to save Lucy Gray from death in the arena, based on both his growing feelings and his desperation for success, will push them both to terrible extremes – revealing to Snow who he truly is, and what he’ll do to save himself.
In “The Hunger Games,” Suzanne Collins depicted District 12 as a painfully impoverished place where starvation was only a missed meal away. And in “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” she depicts a different kind of poverty in the Capitol – it’s a relatively luxurious place full of wealth and parties, but there’s a rotten layer to this crumbling society, a sense of dark decay that underlies Snow’s world. And she reminds us constantly that the Capitol is still scarred by the war between Panem and the rebels, which got so bad that wealthy people cannibalized their servants in the streets.
Collins also switches up her writing here – rather than the first-person perspective of the Hunger Games trilogy, she relates Snow’s teenage adventures in the third person. Her prose is tense and taut, with moments of horror (the deaths of some of the tributes) or chilling sadness (“Tell her… that we are all so sorry she has to die”) spattered across it. The plot does grow less intense after the Hunger Games, when it seems like Snow has had to embrace a new life, but then takes a sharp twist into tragedy.
And though he’s the protagonist, Coriolanus Snow is never quite a likable person. We know where he’s coming from and what drives him, but he’s still a very chilly, proud, selfish person motivated by a belief that he is genuinely and inherently better than everyone else. When he’s around Lucy Gray, Collins slips in some actual human emotion, which builds up gradually throughout the book… but Collins never lets us forget for long that he’s not a good person, as seen when he talks about killing the mockingjays.
And he’s backed by characters who aren’t necessarily what they seem. While there’s the compassionate and slightly melodramatic Sejanus as a counterpoint to Snow’s more amoral approach, Lucy Gray is an elusive, mercurial presence that is hard to nail down. And Dr. Gaul is genuinely scary, a mad scientist who apparently does mad science entirely because she can.
There’s a deep sadness at the heart of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” – a knowledge that this is a story that can’t have a happy ending, and can’t have a hero. But it is a fine dystopian tale, giving greater depth to the history of Panem.
I was looking forward to this book and it did not disappoint! You get to understand where Snow comes from and different events that shaped his life. I think Susanne Collins tied in a lot of items from the Hunger Games series very neatly. It’s not without a sense of irony that Snow made his position through District 12 and ultimately how he was brought down by the same district that got him there. Without giving away too much of the story, one comes to understand what he had to do to get to the top and what he has to do in order to survive and stay on top. How the war experience shaped his childhood and his family. I do like the image that Susanne Collins conjures up with the “Snow lands on top” to describe Snow’s conviction in his action, just like Katniss with her “Fire is catching” and “Fire burns/beats rose”. Overall it’s satisfying without being predictable. 4.5/5
The character Katniss Everdeen was always the voice (and genius) of The Hunger Games trilogy, which I love and have re-read several times. To say this book was disappointing is a vast understatement. The book is ploddingly written in the third person, not in the gloriously cynical, soaring, sarcastic voice of a Katniss. The female protagonist, Lucy Gray, is WAY weird — and even worse, she’s BORING. Unrelatable. Artificial. The male protagonist, Coriolanus Snow, is largely unrecognizable and strangely colorless; his evolution into his evil persona is entirely inorganic. The story itself is meaningless. The people are about as compelling as Jar Jar Binks — only less memorable. And all the damn singing! (Okay, okay, WE GET IT. Katniss’ father is probably a descendant of the Covey. So ENOUGH already with all the damn singing!) (Sorry, the first rule of writing is show don’t tell, yet we are TOLD Lucy Gray is an extraordinary singer, again and again and again…the book is full of such dreck. Entirely unworthy of The Hunger Games universe.) The best thing about this book is that it ends. One star, shoulda been zero.
Only last 20 pages of this book managed to stir my interest. So, is this 1 or 2 stars? If I hate read the rest of it? Okay, I’ll be generous. 1.5 stars it is, but I am not rounding this up.
The problem with The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be until the very, very end. It meanders here and there, bloated, unfocused, wordy, boring, misguided. Just to get to the point where Snow needs to decide if he wants to be good and poor and in love or bad and successful.
There are failures of every type in this novel. Snow’s evolution is convoluted and entirely too much time spent on lingering on his sob stories of poverty. Too many new characters are introduced, but none of them are memorable. There is not one person of Haymitch’s caliber, or Cena’s, or Effie’s. There is an attempt to show the dawn and messiness of the early Hunger Games, but it’s diluted by weird Capitol apologia and a BIG BAD, super-boring first game maker villain. There is a romance that it totally unbelievable and mostly inexplicable.
I do believe there is a decent story somewhere in this garbage heap, a story that should have been told by Lucy maybe? But as is, this is a massive failure of execution. The pacing is off, the themes are muddled, there is no passion, there is no urgency, there is no heart. There is, of course, Lucy who was done wrong. And her songs. Two positives totally wasted on this travesty of a novel.
I am not touching this book ever again and I am going to try to forget it ever existed.
A heartbreaking fiasco.
When I heard this book was coming out, I preordered right away. A new book set in Panem? Yes, please! And THEN, when the premise came out, that it was about a young President Snow, I had a lot of concern. Did I want to read a book about that villain? No. But I kept my preorder and read it right away.
I’m not sure that it was worthwhile.
Told in third person, this book is set during the 10th Hunger Games. Coriolanus Snow is 18, previously wealthy but now starving, and in his final year at some prestigious academy in the Capitol. Orphaned, he is living with his “Grandma’am” and his cousin, Tigris. Yes, the Tigris that we encounter in Mockingjay.
In an effort to make the Hunger Games more compelling for viewers, this year the powers that be are assigning a mentor from the Academy to each of the 24 tributes from the districts. Snow is paired with Lucy Gray who was reaped (though not really from) District 12.
He’ll do anything to ensure Lucy Gray is victor, not really out of care for her, but because it would reflect well on him.
And that kind of sums up the Snow we get in this book — always looking out for himself absolutely at the expense of anyone else. He is his priority, and the Capitol is second. Can’t say that he has a third priority.
He’s a bit of a sociopath from the beginning, so it’s no surprise that’s how he is during the 74th/75th Hunger Games in the original trilogy.
We get a good chunk of the book observing the 10th Hunger Games in their more simplistic design, and a view of the Capitol and District life around that time. It’s dull. The characters aren’t nearly as compelling as the ones from Katniss’ time. I thought the characters of Katniss, Peeta, Gale, Haymitch, heck even Effie were more vivid and interesting than any we encounter in this book. The action and tension isn’t really there in the plot.
While I thought Lucy Gray had potential, her story was only partially fleshed out. It would have been much more satisfying for me if the story centered more on her, with Snow a side character. Or, maybe a book during Haymitch’s time, or during the actual war.
Overall, I’m disappointed. I disagree with the need for this premise, so maybe it was doomed for me from the start. It turns out, no, I don’t care to read about the Snow villain in de
pth. Nothing groundbreaking happened in these 517 pages. If you like books that are basically the origin story for a villain, maybe you’ll appreciate this one.
The five (!) quotes in the epigraph suggest Collins wanted to explore nature vs nurture: are we born good or bad, or does our environment and our circumstances override any inborn qualities? What is “good,” anyway? What is the role of the State?
If you are curious, read it for yourself! Just maybe get it from the library.
1.5* wavering between “did not like it” and “it was ok” and might change it after I’ve mulled it over.