The Ballads of the Songbirds and Snakes

The Ballads of the Songbirds and Snakes

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is one of the most popular YA (young adult) novels out there. More than 23 million copies of this novel have been sold since its release in 2008. Catching Fire was published the following year and caught fire with over 17 million copies sold. Finally, Mockingjay followed suit during the year 2010 and hit 13 million copies sold.  The trilogy was over, only three books, and there were no intentions of continuing the series. After all, over 53 million copies were sold worldwide, and four award-winning blockbuster films were created. However, the fans had called out for more, and Collins did just that. On May 19, 2020, Suzanne Collins published The Ballad of the Songbirds and the Snakes as a prequel to the Hunger Games Trilogy.

The Hunger Games is a dystopian trilogy about a girl named Katniss and her counterpart Peeta from the tiny District 12. They were commanded by the powerful Capitol to fight to the death with 22 other contestants in the 74th and 75th Hunger Games. When Katniss breaks the rules of the Hunger Games, she unknowingly sets off a rebellion against the Capitol in other regions. President Snow, the main antagonist, is determined to kill Katniss by all means necessary and get control over the country again. Katniss needs to step up and take control of the rebellion by leading the country to freedom, even if it means losing a lot more than her life.

The Ballad of the Songbirds and the Snakes sets a different tone to the Hunger Games. This tale is based on 18-year-old President Snow’s experience as a mentor to a District 12 girl, Lucy Gray Baird, who was chosen for the 10th Hunger Games. He ends up being punished for breaking the rules, and he is sent to become a law enforcement officer in District 12. There, he learns about betrayal and what he is willing to do to rise to power.

This book received mixed responses on Good Reads that range from, “That is the worst book I’ve ever read,” to “It was amazing!”. Most of the lesser ratings had one thing in common, and that was the lack of meaningful events. They say that the book was slow and had a lot of unimportant events. They didn’t add up to anything and made the story feel cluttered and poorly paced. Some of the better ratings said that even though it was slow, it gave an opportunity to soak in the scenes, and the slow-paced parts were essential to describe the history and background of the Capitol, which is the primary purpose of this book.

Overall, the characters were shallow and didn’t have any real personality. However, the story was exciting and had a unique villain origin story. Rather than the “Good becomes evil after a traumatic event,” it gave us a different kind of villain who started as charismatic, yet at best described as morally ambiguous. Towards the end of the novel, Snow is revealed to be a power-hungry villain who is willing to do anything to get his way, so it’s not a villain redemption story, rather an origin story. Plus, Suzanne Collins made up an ingenious catchphrase, “Snow always lands on top,” which is a play on Snow’s last name and their position in the high ranks of the Capitol. Unfortunately, this story is muddled and wordy with too many unnecessary side plots and useless characters that make the book confusing and hard to follow.

All in all, it was a good book, but it’s unrefined and too wordy. Hopefully, although the book does have its flaws, it should still gain popularity amongst crowds. Everyone who’s read The Hunger Games should try this book to get a better understanding of the original Hunger Games universe.