Book Beginnings quote:
Coriolanus released the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again.Friday56 quote:
He was always gracious to Io, though, and as a result, she adored him. With unpopular people such a minor effort went such a long way.Summary: THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES is considered the #0 book in the Hunger Games series, a prequel set about 65 years before the action in the original books. In it we meet President Coriolanus Snow as a teenager when he is chosen as a mentor for one of the participants in the 10th Hunger Games. His family has lost their fortune in the war and now they have to eek out their existence while pretending to still be rich. When the list comes out matching mentors with tributes he has been assigned to Lucy Gray, the female from district 12, the lowest of the low assignments. He is stung by this and works to do everything to make Lucy successful to not only save her but to save himself. Along the way he comes in contact with Dr. Gaul and discovers many of the dastardly tricks she uses on the tributes in the games. He also becomes linked to Sejanus Plinth, another mentor who is not interested in being a mentor and is opposed to all the killing. Along the way we see the development of the man who eventually becomes the cruel President of Panem.
Review: I really wanted to like this book. In fact, I was so excited for it that I pre-ordered one copy for my daughter and one for myself so we could received it the day it came out. That way we could read it at the same time and discuss it like we did when MOCKINGJAY came out years ago. But before it even arrived I started hearing murmurs of dissent from reviewers who received early copies. When my copy arrived my eldest daughter hijacked my copy and read it before I had a chance at it. After reading it she commented that she didn't feel the need for the book in the first place. She was fine not knowing how the Hunger Games developed into the fiasco we know from the original series and she had never wondered what President Snow was like as a teenager. I actually thought that the portion of the book dedicated to the 10th Hunger Games was pretty good, it was more the long build up and what came after the game that bothered me. In fact, I think the book should have been divided into two books with the build-up and 10th Hunger Game in book one, ending on a big cliff hanger. Then book two could be what happens in the district afterwards. I was so put off by the length of the book I completely lost steam reading it and had to struggle to complete it.
Though I was enthralled with the Hunger Games trilogy, I was never very enraptured by Collins' writing. If you remember back to scenes from Mockingjay, whenever the action would get exciting or fierce, Katniss would faint or get hit on the head and we would only learn about the action later as someone described it to her. I was pretty critical of that aspect of the writing when I reviewed her earlier books and I noticed the same thing in THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES. When the action would be building to a big crescendo I would anticipate much more action than what was delivered. Near the end of the book I wasn't even sure what happened because the writing and the descriptions were so vague. I was left with an unsatisfactory feeling overall.
So I guess you are wondering if I recommend that you read the book? My answer is probably not. I liked the original series for the story more than for the writing. I, like my daughter, never wondered how the Hunger Games began and what they looked like in the beginning. I never wondered what kind of person President Snow was as a teenager and what led to him becoming so diabolical. But if you have wondered those things, then I think you should read the book and judge it for yourself.
THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES qualified for the Big Books Summer Challenge at 517 pages.