Book Talk: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Welcome back to Panem!


Taylor Aguilera, Staff Writer

The fact that it took me months to finish this book when I could have had it down within a week bothers me to no end, yet here we are and I have finally read through The Hunger Games prequel from front to back. The speed at which I read this book doesn’t reflect the enjoyment that I got out of it. The Hunger Games, while being my favorite series is by far not a fun series to read, or well, not completely. Once you’ve read the books once it’s hard to read as quickly as the first time as they are very dark books, never mind the violence but the whole concept and not to mention it never gets to be a fantastical series, so it hits close with reality. It especially is hard to read once you take in the whole thing and imagine how it would be to live in Panem. Nonetheless, once it was announced that Suzanne Collins had written a new Hunger Games novel I was stoked, to say the least, internally burning up from the inside with utter anticipation and don’t even get me started on how I felt when I saw the page count (nerd freakouts aside).

The Ballad of Song Birds and Snakes takes place 64 years before the events of the first Hunger Games novel. We follow a young Coriolanus Snow, something that some fans weren’t happy with. It’s time for the 10th annual Hunger Games and young Snow is chosen to partake in an experiment in which they use students as mentors as well as have them input ideas for the 10th Hunger Games. Coriolanus’s thoughts on district people are challenged once he meets the girl from district 12 he will be working with; Lucy Gray.

Overall I’d say that I give the book 4 out of 5 stars but to be fair I’m not good at being critical while reading, at least all the time. A book talk isn’t always about the review as it’s also about somewhat discussing the books and my thoughts on certain parts, meaning that there are spoilers that I will be going over after this paragraph so if you are a fan of the series and have not yet read the novel then go and read it. You have been warned.

I want to start with my thoughts on the choice to put Coriolanus Snow (President Snow) as the protagonist of the book and my thoughts about his character as a whole in this novel. Now I know that some people even such as myself; don’t like reading about a villain’s back story in a stand-alone story be it a book or movie. Some fans were wondering what Suzanne Collins was thinking, trying to get us to sympathize with a tyrant. To that I have to say, don’t complain about cartoon villains then. President Snow wasn’t a poorly done character in the novels but when you compare him to the movies, he is definitely lacking. Now well I don’t want to rant on my frustrations with people wanting a non-cartoon villain and want a three-dimensional character from them but then go and complain about Snow being the protagonist in this novel, it’s as I stated it; frustrating. Either way, well I wasn’t the most excited to see that Snow was going to be the main character, I was excited to see how he rose to power, his past, and the other parts of the history of Panem. I would also like to point out that I thought that Snow was the cause of the Hunger Games, as in he is the one that created it once in power, I know it was stupid, but I was in middle school at the time. This book did no favors for Snow either as it didn’t make him the least bit likable, in my eyes at least. Angsty, classist, and an overall snake due to his beliefs (not religious) I found the guy to be more hateable, which as bad as it sounds, I liked. The story seems to run off of Snow’s character, pun not intended, and yet even when in the past I didn’t like the main character I couldn’t read it, I found myself trying to drink up as much of this as I could. He by no means is a bad character and is well done, which might be what drove me throughout the book, trying to study the young Snow. Snow is clearly the snake while Lucy Gray is the songbird.

Now on the other hand, while the story seems more character-driven, there was for whatever reason, okay it did end up being a good reason, there was another romance in this novel. Either I am the odd teen out or others are behind me when I say I didn’t like the love triangle from the original trilogy. It was in my opinion unnecessary and something that I couldn’t stand that much, I’m glad they didn’t do much with it in the movies too. I get it, I’m a teen too but that doesn’t mean that I’ll be interested all the time in a romance. As I said though this was reasonable this time as it has to do with the plot and getting us to show Snow’s beliefs in humanity. It was part of his drive throughout the books as well, still, I had to roll my eyes when it felt like the “she’s mine and I am hers” came out of the blue. That’s fair though, some authors have a weakness in their writings, actually next to everyone does, and Suzanne’s is romance.

Seanjus is the main character that I was concerned about and rooting for throughout the whole book though. I thought that while he leads with his heart too much that he was a good guy for doing so. This ultimately got him killed for being a traitor. When all he wanted to do was get away from Panem and instead got Snow who injected him with venom like the snake he is. Snow did feel bad and regretted is to be fair but still, it’s his fault. I honestly knew the whole book that Seanjus might die, and I thought when Snow went to 12 that he was safe but no. I liked the fact that while he identified with the district folk more that he wanted to help everyone. Ultimately the world was too vile to hold such a good seed.

It was interesting to see that not everything that we had come to know as The Hunger Games was in the Games before Snow helped adapt it into there. It is also funny to later find out that it was Coriolanus Snow’s father that was responsible for the creation of the Games. That technically speaking when I say that it was Snow’s fault, that my wording is correct.

I got the pre-order from Barnes and Noble so I ended up getting the exclusive B&N edition. This one included an interview with Suzanne Collins herself. I am glad to have decided to read the book before reading the questions as there were some spoilers in them. I still got to find out that the story wasn’t just thought up as a means to go back into the world of The Hunger Games but it was also done with the outline of creating a philosophical discussion on human nature. Each character aligning with either a certain philosophy, sometimes having more than one. I agree here though as this was something that I noticed throughout the book though. Are humans inherently good or horrible savage?

There is only so much I can put in an article, otherwise, I might have quite the hefty one as you can see. The book gave me much to think about and speculate on, fueling my hunger, again no pun intended, for more about the world of The Hunger Games. I am still happy that we got to return to this depressing world… and can’t wait to see if we get more someday. I loved this book as I have with all the past entries. Happy Hunger Games and may the odds be ever in your favor.