The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Olivia Mitchell
Reviewed by Olivia Mitchell
Summary: An exciting, thoughtful and powerful origin story and prequel full of twists and turns, powerful images and lessons to be learned.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 528 Date: May 2020
Publisher: Scholastic
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0702300172

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Coriolanus Snow is refined, charming, and one of the only surviving members of the affluent Snow family. But their world was destroyed by the war. Their riches are gone, his parents dead - and yet the facade must be maintained. As the 10th Hunger Games begins, Coriolanus and other students of the Academy become the first Mentors of the tributes in the games. This is his chance to prove himself to the world and secure his place in the Capitol for good. But when he is assigned a tribute with no hope - a girl from District 12 - he thinks all chances of winning (both for her and for him) are gone. But Lucy Gray Baird proves herself to be a spark in his world, in a way he could never have imagined. As the Games commence, Lucy Gray fights for her life in the arena - but behind the scenes, in the sly, complex and strangely dangerous world of the Capitol, Coriolanus is fighting for his life too. Will she survive the Games? Will he? And what happens then?

Coriolanus is a fascinating protagonist. He is charming and intelligent, and knows exactly how to work the people around him - no one can see the truth underneath. And the truth is, the opulent Snow family was - like so many others - decimated by the war, and never recovered. He is dirt poor. But he has ambition and an appearance to maintain. And so he weaves through rooms with a charming smile and glittering conversation, endearing people to him and controlling every moment and its emotion. And now, he is one of the first-ever mentors in the Hunger Games - a new addition for the 10th anniversary to adapt the games into something more meaningful, his final act before graduating from the Academy. Coriolanus Snow has echoes of what he becomes in the future in the original Hunger Games trilogy - obsessive, ambitious. But we also see a different side to him and put some reasoning behind the evil we know. He cares deeply for his tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, and genuinely worries about her survival. He feels a shred of guilt over the existence of the games and his role in them, and yet he knows they are necessary - for the Capitol and for his status. As the story twists and develops so does Coriolanus and our understanding of him, making him a great protagonist.

Lucy Gray is a fantastic character - she is the opposite of Coriolanus, except in all the ways that count. She is a bright spark in a dingy world and becomes someone you truly root for. She isn’t violent or aggressive and seems in no way fit for the games. But she has a performing streak and a voice for the stage, and is crafty in her own ways – she is by no means a formidable opponent and could be felled in one swoop, but she has hope, and so we do too. She and Coriolanus click in an enjoyable way and become a wonderful pair to lead the book. She is an inspiring and likeable character.

The characters in this book are colourful and wonderfully developed - they are true to the world Collins created and each has their own role to play.

The novel is split into 3 parts and is written in the 3rd person perspective. The book is a very exciting and addictive read - almost every chapter ends with some kind of twist, cliffhanger or shock. It was a book I enjoyed taking my time with. The language is beautifully descriptive and reads well. For fans, there are subtle hints, references and foreshadows to the original Hunger Games novels, which are set 60-odd years in the future, alongside amusing similarities to the real world and its history.

The book is quite a long read, which I found to be the only drawback of this wonderful novel – and despite the length, it remains pacey and structured.

A beautiful prequel and origin story about love, loss, war, ambition, chaos and control - and the cost of all of the above.

Further Reading:

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins – An exciting future catastrophe novel and the start of the original trilogy – a must-read if you’re interested in this novel!

Divergent by Veronica Roth – A dystopian future novel full of interesting characters.

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Buy The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins at Amazon.com.

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