06 October, 2020

[Review] The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

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Cover image from the goodreads website.

Series or Stand Alone: Hunger Games
Release Date: 19 May, 2020
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Genre: Action & Adventure/Post-Apocalyptic/Romance
ISBN: 9780374307097
Edition: Audiobook (available in eBook and hardcover)
Rating: ★★
Review Written: 9 July, 2020
Warnings: Death, Torture, Inhumane Conditions, Experimental Science
It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-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 out charm, 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.

See more by Suzanne Collins at her website.
I was looking forward to this book, I was, however I felt very let down by the final product. In this revisit to the world of the Hunger Games, we're greeted with Coriolanus Snow, future president of Panem and currently a dirt-poor boy clinging to a family legacy that was tied up in munitions in district 13.... the district that was bombed to end the war.

After the deaths of his parents (his father in the war, his mother in childbirth), Coriolanus and his cousin Tigeress (is she the same Tigeress who helped Katniss in the Capital?) are living with his grandmother in the Snow's family penthouse. Though the war ended 10 years ago, his family remains struggling from one day to the next due to all of their money having been tied up in District 13. This year also marks the 10th year of the Hunger Games, which isn't nearly as popular as it will be in 65 years.

As we join Coriolanus in his school journey, readers are lead into how some of the procedures of the Hunger Games are thought of. During this time, the tributes from the districts are housed in the Zoo, without beds and without proper food rations. In past years, the tributes weren't held more than overnight before being dumped into a crumbling arena that in better years before the war, was used as a place for circuses and other performances. Now, the dilapidated structure is filled with weapons, and the teens are tossed in to kill each other. This year, however, is special because the capital has decided to partner Capital teens with the tributes, and to host interviews.

Things don't go to plan, however, when three of the mentors end up dead, and more including Coriolanus end up injured. Throughout the book we're stuck in Coriolanus's head for much of the programming, and where he's meant to be cunning all I found was narcissism. Though it was interesting to see Coriolanus get caught in cheating with the Academy and the Games, and being shunted off into the life of a Peacekeeper, it all turns out to be an experiment by Dr. Gaul, the lead Gamemaker at this point.

Intertwined with what felt like a forced romance, or perhaps an infatuation, this book fell flat on many notes. I still hate Coriolanus Snow. I still think he deserved to die. He was nothing more than a narcissist who's one desire was power. He personally caused three people to die, two of them with his own hands and one who was supposed to be his friend for treason. In the end, it seems he has learned nothing but that "Snow lands on top" (a very annoying family motto that he used to justify anything good that happened to him); and he ends up inserting himself into his friend's family (without telling them how or why their son was found treasonous of course) as an heir.

Though I longed for a look into the Hunger Games world before Katniss, this wasn't the novel I was hoping for. This book was incredibly dry, with only a handful of interesting plots intertwining with the core of the story. My hope is that if we return to this world again, perhaps we can get a look from a new character or one of the champions somewhere between the books, and a true answer to some of the questions left at the end of this book.

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