“Coriolanus releashed the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again.”First line in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins
Author: Suzanne Collins
Published: May 19th 2020
Genre: YA Sci-Fi/Dystopia
Series: The Hunger Games #0
Synopsis: 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.
A villain will never think of themselves as a villain. The reason why the villain origin story is so appealing to us is because we want to see how they justify their actions. How do they live with themselves? How can a human being be so evil? That is what The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes sets out to show us through Coriolanus Snow’s experiences during the tenth Hunger Games.
We are introduced to the Snow family’s life which is still heavily effected by the war ten years prior. It’s a struggle to make ends meet and Coriolanus is working desperately not only to remedy the situation, but also hide it from the rest of the Capitol. This is interesting because you would think this would make the reader pity Snow and feel sorry for him, but it actually doesn’t. And that is one of the main great things about this book. He is in no way redeemed with this book or absolved from his future sins. You’re very clearly not meant to like him. That doesn’t make him any less interesting though.
The way Collins builds his character is very much through his interactions with people around him. She has made sure that his life contains both genuienly good people and absolutely horrible people. And also some morally gray ones inbetween. He makes his own choices as to which of these people he’s influenced by, which I really like. It is not his poor background that has made him evil, but his own choices. I could always follow his thought-process and understand why he choose to way he did which I think is a sign of great writing.
Turning to some of the less positive things about the book, I need to stress that this book is too long. Especially the first third seemed to be making the same points over and over again. There isn’t much of a plot either so that first part was sort of missing a direction. Like what are we doing? I’m not a reader who needs a definitive plot but if you are, I can almost guarantee that you won’t like this. It’s much more about Snow as a character and there just happens to be some stuff going on around him that he reacts to.
The stuff going on around him, though, is also pretty interesting. We really get to see how The Hunger Games started out and how different they were back then. I think that’s important to show because the Games we see 60 years later are so extravagant and unreal. Seeing the progress of getting to that makes it even more plausible that, yes this is something we as human beings can create.
So now the question: do I recommend this? Yes. But only to those who already really love The Hunger Games and are interested in a slow-paced villain origin story. There has been some polarizing views on this book and I definitely see how. This is not for everyone, although I found it interesting. It’s just as brutal and thought-provoking as the original trilogy even though it in other aspects doesn’t reach their level.