Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia

Publishing Info: May 2020 by Scholastic

Pages: 517

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

AMBITION WILL FUEL HIM.
COMPETITION WILL DRIVE HIM.
BUT POWER HAS ITS PRICE.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, 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.

It’s been days since I finished reading this book and I’m only just now sitting down to write this review because I just couldn’t decide how to rate and review it. The Hunger Games is one of my all-time favourite series so I was incredibly excited when it was announced there would be a prequel. I was a little bit less excited when they announced it would be about a young President Snow as his origin story didn’t particularly appeal to me. But even so I pre-ordered The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and read it as soon as my copy arrived. The weird title does make more sense once you’ve read the book.

While The Hunger Games is set during the 74th games, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set during the 10th games. So the events take place a long time before the trilogy. My favourite part of this book was the world and seeing what Panem was like 10 years after the war. The Capitol is a very different place. Coriolanus Snow was a child during the war and saw poverty, starvation and death. In the year of the 10th Hunger Games, the Capitol is still recovering from the war.

The Hunger Games themselves are very different from the games we know from the trilogy. At this point, hardly anyone watches them, in the Capitol or the districts, because who would want to watch kids murder each other, right? There are no stylists. This is the first year they’ve had mentors. The first year they do interviews. The arena is just an old sports stadium in the Capitol. I found discovering more about the years after the war and the beginnings of the Hunger Games absolutely fascinating.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book. It’s very different from the original trilogy, which is a good thing as it doesn’t just feel like a recycled The Hunger Games. The book is split into three parts. The first part was definitely my favourite. There were some shocking moments in the build up to the games and I was hooked. Then in part two, we see the games themselves. I liked this part, but not as much as the first part. It could have been more exciting and suspenseful. It was interesting seeing the games from the perspective of a mentor, rather than someone in the games like we see in The Hunger Games, but that did mean I felt a little removed from the action. The games would have been more exciting if this part of the novel had quicker pacing. Part Three goes off in a direction I was not expecting, which was good from the perspective that it wasn’t predictable, but I did find this part a bit slow until right at the end. The third part could have been cut down a bit to improve the pacing and increase the tension. I wasn’t as gripped while reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes as I was when I read the original books.

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Top 5 Wednesday: Books You’re Thankful For

This topic is pretty open for interpretation, and my list incorporates a variety of reasons to be thankful for. There are so many books that could be included on this list, but I’ve listed the ones that came to me first, that were my instinctive choices. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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The Dragonlance Chronicles: Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

This book series really increased my love of fantasy even more, and provided one of the biggest inspirations and fuels for my forays into fantasy writing. I loved the world and the characters (and of course – dragons). I just fell in love with the story and characters. It’s been a while since they read them actually so I really ought to re-read them and remind myself why I love fantasy so much.

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Film Review: Mockingjay Part 1

Release date: 20th November 2014

Director: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks

Runtime: 123 minutes

Genre: Science-Fiction, Dystopia, Action, Thriller

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 5/5 stars

 

Mockingjay Part 1 continues from Catching Fire as Katniss Everdeen finds herself amongst the rebellion in District 13. Distraught at the Capitol’s capture of Peeta, Katniss must battle with herself to bring herself back from the darkest places of her mind. A propaganda war ensues as President Snow attempts to quash the rebellion, and District 13 hope to rally the districts to their cause with Katniss as their symbol – the Mockingjay.

It is firstly important to say that this review is coming from someone who has read the books, and is a massive fan of both the books and the films. Yet again, the film is very close to the book. A few small changes have been made but arguably for the better. One example is that Effie has a much larger role in the film than she had in the books, which I don’t mind because Elizabeth Banks does such a great job at playing her character.

To people who have not read the books Part 1 may seem a little slow. I’ve seen a lot of people commenting on how they found it boring. That may be because it isn’t as explosive as the first two films. All the books are split into two parts, and if The Hunger Games and Catching Fire had been split into two, people would think the ‘Part 1’ films were boring. That’s just the structure of the books, the way they work. Mockingjay Part 1 does a very good job of building up to Part 2. There is still a lot of action and suspense in Part 1 and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you interested.

You get a much better insight into the characters in this film. They have gone through so much, now we get to see how they deal with it. There is a lot of character development in this part, especially with Katniss and Finnick. One thing that wasn’t so good was Gale. He just sort of floats around, still the same as he was at the start, I feel like they could have done more with his character. There is one scene when they are in District 12 in which he describes how it was destroyed which gives us a glimpse into him. I just feel they could have done more. Overall though the acting continues to be stupendous. Julianne Moore does an excellent job with President Coin.

Overall, yes go see it! If you read the books then definitely see it (I expect that’s a no brainer though). Some people think it’s boring, but if you think that then bear in mind it will be worth it for Part 2!