Book Review: “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins

ballad of songbirds and snakesThe impressive world-building that Suzanne Collins set-up in her smash hit Hunger Games trilogy left many readers eager to return for another visit to Panem, despite the bleak tone of those stories. The majority of those readers will not be disappointed with this book. Rather than check in on Katniss Everdeen to see how her life has turned out, the author has made the interesting decision here to instead jump back several decades to show us her primary villain, Coriolanus Snow, as a teenager in a Capitol still recovering from the war. His family’s place in high-society is at risk, as he and several other of his senior classmates are assigned to become the first-ever mentors to the tributes in the 10th edition of the little-watched Hunger Games. While he has conflicted feelings about the brutality being put on display, he also sees it as a way to propel himself towards the future he wants for himself and his family. It’s interesting to see the way the mind of someone who winds up committing as many atrocities as he does in the future works. This isn’t the sort of origin story that spends its time explaining how a variety of incidents can turn a nice young man into a monster, rather, it shows how that person was always in there, just waiting to emerge, and capable of talking himself into believing that any of his actions or positions were irrefutably correct; which one could easily see as being representative of how many of history’s most abhorrent rulers might have felt. Ms. Collins does an excellent job of portraying all of the undercurrents of darkness swirling inside him, while also keeping the reader invested in how things turn out (which is even more of a feat considering that we all know at least some of the answer to that heading into this book). Everything one would expect from another installment in the series is here: teenage angst, a bit of romance, violence, and a dash of palace intrigue; but there is a little bit more humor here than in the original trilogy, and the moral philosophizing is on full display in a way that was only rivalled by Mockingjay. It is a riveting read, filled with interesting characters, that does a great job in filling in a lot of the story before The Hunger Games. It may fall short of masterpiece status, but it’s exactly the sort of smart popcorn read we need right now. ★★★★ – Sean Farrell

Available Formats:

eBook | Hoopla eAudiobook

★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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