Number 27 of 100 books in year (i.e. the 100% not going to happen again this year challenge) was The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins.
This book is set during the tenth annual hunger games (if you remember, the events of the original trilogy took place during the 74th annual hunger games). It follows the story of a young Coriolanus Snow, poised to graduate from school, just beginning his career. At this time, the Hunger Games are viewed grimly by not just the Districts but the Capitol too and those in power want them to continue so they involve Snow and his fellow students as mentors, to try and change public perception. This is the first time the Hunger Games has mentors and it’s an experiment that also involves focus sessions with the students on how, theoretically, they could get the public behind the games again so that they continue. Snow’s assignment is a colourful girl from district 12, who makes quite the impression at the reaping by poisoning another girl with a snake bite and then performing a song on stage in the ensuing chaos. In an attempt to win her trust, Snow begins to visit Lucie where she and the other tributes are being kept before the games and the attention this garners from the press sparks his idea that he can use her popularity with the public to help her win. The Snow family wealth was lost during the rebellion and so he is relying on getting the scholarship to university, on which his performance as a mentor is dependent. This leads to the invention of many of the elements we see in the Hunger Games as Katniss knows them.
During the course of the lead up to the Games, Snow becomes very close to his tribute, all of which leads the Capitol officials to grow suspicious of his allegiance. Especially as he becomes closer friends with Sejanus, a boy with rebel sympathies, whose family wealth post-war, allowed them to move to the Capitol. The Head Gamemaker takes a special interest in Snow, which is where we start to see the beginning of his political influence.
Now, I can’t go into anymore detail without there being a spoiler but I did find the ending to be very cleverly written. In fact, the whole book is very clever, with little breadcrumbs for the world as Katniss knows it left throughout the narrative.
I really enjoyed small details such as the origin of a lot of the iconic songs in Hunger Games, such as the Hanging Tree and Deep in the Meadow (not the official names I think but I thought this description would be more memorable/ recognisable). It also gives greater insight into why Snow hates Katniss and what she represents in the Hunger Games, like why he hates the Mockingbird’s so much and his connection to the original songs makes his dislike of Katniss personally much more understandable. I also enjoyed how it sets up the political landscape and the way the Hunger Games in the future are conducted but without being overtly expositional about it. It doesn’t attempt to justify Snow’s actions as a dictator but rather, the context of how the world as we know it in the trilogy came to be.
With books like this, released years after the original successful and fully concluded series, it usually has 70/30 odds of being utterly shit and ruining the magic of the original books. This is the exception, it’s so well written and really interesting! I’m not sure how enjoyable it would be for someone who hasn’t read/ isn’t a fan of the original trilogy but I reckon it could stand alone. That being said, it is definitely a book written for the fans but isn’t over indulgent or retrospectively adding pointless information that is supposedly ‘subtext’ is the original books (I think you all know which author I’m digging at here, right?). You can tell that the author had already largely thought through a lot of this back story before writing the original books and perhaps threw in a bit more of Snow’s personal story in there to pad it out. Alternatively, I’m talking complete nonsense and Collins actually just did a really good job fitting lots of elements from the Hunger Games into this new novel!
In conclusion, read this book! As always, here is the link to the Goodread’s page on it. We are now fully up to date on my What I’m Reading and as I’ve decided to take on the Skulduggery Pleasant book series, it could be a while before you get ones of these again but since that series’ is 13 books long, you will have to bear with me…
p.s. like or follow because I won’t know if you’ve enjoyed this otherwise…