The ballad of songbirds and snakes by Suzanne Collins
Scholastic Press 2020. ISBN: 9781743836811.
(Young Adult/Adult). Recommended. Fans of The Hunger Games, rejoice! Suzanne Collins is back. A decade after the last book in the original trilogy was published, Collins has finally released a prequel novel. Set decades before the events of The Hunger Games, The ballad of songbirds and snakes takes us back to a Panem that is feverishly preparing for the tenth annual Hunger Games. Centering on eighteen year old Coriolanus Snow - yes, THAT Snow - we see this eventual master villain in a new light. Snow is a member of a once mighty but now fallen family. His only chance to redeem his house and make a name for himself is to mentor the winning tribute in this year's Hunger Games. He is therefore appalled when he is assigned the tribute from District 12, a district that never produces winners. But the tribute is Lucy Gray Baird, a girl with a beautiful voice who has captured the attention of the Capitol. Snow begins to see a way forward working with Lucy but what he does not expect is for stronger feelings to develop.
While this novel is never going to produce the same levels of adoration that are still associated with The Hunger Games trilogy, it is nevertheless an interesting take on a much-maligned and much-hated character. The book acts as a villain 'origin story' of sorts and gives readers much greater insight into the background of Snow. There is perhaps a little too much internal dialogue and focus on Snow's feelings about what is occurring around him. Fans of the original series may also find the pacing and tone different from Collins' previous works. However The ballad of songbirds and snakes is a worthwhile and engaging read with a very explosive ending. Themes: Dystopias, Violence, Inequality, Romance, Identity.