The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Book - 2020
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"Revisits the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, New York : Scholastic Press, ©2020.
ISBN: 9781338635171
Characteristics: 517 pages ;,22 cm.


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Jul 12, 2020

I am not really sure why the author chose to write this book (other than the money). I am sure that nearly everyone that reads it has already read the rest of the Hunger Game series. If this was the only book of the series someone has read, I can't imagine them bothering with the rest. The writing wasn't that bad but I can't figure out why she would write an entire book about the least likable character in the series and then spend the entire book making him even less likable. It seems like every chance that Coriolanus Snow has to either do something nice for someone, rescue someone, or behave like a normal human being he first has to consider whether it is in his own best interest and then most likely betrays them or lies to make himself look better. The author makes no effort to explain why he behaves this way. Was his father cruel to him? The rest of his family seems normal and giving so why is he the way he is?
If the author chooses to write another book for this series I hope she finds a more likable, or at least more interesting, character.
One more thing: I listened to the audiobook. This book has several tunes sung by Lucy Gray that end up being read by the narrator. In several cases, the tunes are old tunes from years ago but the music as well as the lyrics exist. They also include the song sung by Catniss in the movie. Having the narrator (or someone) sing the lyrics rather than recite them slowly would have been a big improvement.

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about reentering the world of the Hunger Games, but my god, I enjoyed it immensely. I'm so pleasantly surprised.

Coriolanus Snow has lived through the war with the districts. He lives in a penthouse suite, he goes to school at the Academy, and he has a bright Capitol future ahead of him. When he's assigned to mentor the girl from District 12 at the 10th annual Hunger Games, Coriolanus sees it as a challenge, and his ticket to university - because underneath the facade he presents, the Snows' money is dwindling, and his future could very well be at stake. But Lucy Gray may be more than he bargained for, and his future even less certain than he already believes it to be.

The thought of a prequel novel about Snow, of all people, left me feeling very lukewarm when I heard about this one. Yes, he was a decent villain, I hated him SO MUCH, but was he interesting enough to warrant an entire novel? Turns out: yes. Oh my god.

I love how Suzanne Collins can work such structure into her novels and mixes the familiar with the new. We know Panem from the 74th Hunger Games 64 years in the future - this is the time of the 10th, and so much is different. This novel really bridges the gap between what Panem becomes and where it started, namely as North America as we know it. So, we know the format of the Hunger Games from the series, and that is indeed present here, but it's done in such a different way. Without the glitz and glamour of the future, without the mandatory watching and spectacle of it all, it somehow hits so much harder, knowing where it's all heading. This is a punishment for the districts, and it's horrible, but at the same time, no one seems to know what happens beyond the reaping. Fascinating.

I thought I might find it hard to read from Snow's perspective, but I empathized with him more than I wanted to, and maybe even more than I should have. He's a vain person, very concerned with status, but he grew up in a war - he has faced hardship in his life, and his reaction to that has been to control things. To make it so that he can't be hurt again, no matter what that costs him. And I just...I get it. It's so wonderfully conveyed here that even when the eventual twist came and I had to hate him, I still just understood, and I can appreciate him so much more as a character in the original trilogy now.

As for Lucy Gray and the Covey, what a wonderful addition they made to this otherwise quite beige/gray/bland world. They were the colour that this story needed. Lucy Gray's songs are also an absolute highlight of this one for me; I felt like I could hear them when I read those lyrics, and it made it so very engrossing and atmospheric. And the Hanging Tree! I got full body goosebumps at the scene of her writing it. She is lovely, and motivated so differently than Coriolanus that the balance was almost a relief. Their relationship was sometimes hard to read, but I believed it.

What drives this from an engrossing, intense read up to the level of a fave for me is the moral philosophy that Collins weaves through her words. How she presents us with this character who has to choose control, has to fight the chaos, in order to move on in life because he is so convinced that human beings are ultimately selfish and no better than animals. That we'd all kill each other without some kind of overarching controlling figure to tell us not to. The path that Panem has taken to reach Katniss's time is now just so much clearer; it's because of Snow.

At the end of the day, I just really enjoyed this. I know others have said it's meandering, dull, etc. but I truly never found myself bored. I wanted to read this, and when I wasn't reading, I was thinking about it. That is enough for me as a reader, but this book goes above and beyond that to being actual quality in terms of writing, plot, and characters, too.

Jul 07, 2020

As a fan of the Hunger Games trilogy, I was really disappointed by this prequel, from the viewpoint of a young, pre-President, Snow. It was impossible to connect to his character. Throughout the story he played the victim, unhealthily obsessed over his love interest, lacked empathy, and craved control. He read as an abuser or a psychopath or both.

Jul 05, 2020

I loved this amazing book! I am 11 years old and I love the Hunger Games and I was so happy to find in 2019 there would be a new book. I got the book the day it came out and finished in 3 days. I love how it shows why President Snow became who he is in the Hunger Games trilogy. I loved the whole story! I would say this is one of the best books I have ever read.

We learn nothing new about President Snow, he is a terrible human being and always has been. Constantly feeling he is owed more than he actually deserved, and makes comments like when things "smell like poverty".

The love interest was one note and your quintessential manic pixie dream which is a shame because if the story was about Lucy Gray I think it could have been a little more interesting.

This is also chalk full of Easter eggs, that are not subtle but instead Collins hits you repeatedly with a figurative "remember this" bat.

Since this is Suzanne Collins though the book is well written, and for anyone who remembers the Hunger Games knows she can craft a memorable and heart breaking story, this however is not it. This book didn't need to exist, I didn't need to be in Snows head and I am disappointed.

Gina_Vee Jun 28, 2020

I don't know what to think about this book. It's messed up (in the basic way that the Hunger Games storyline is extreme and brutal, not as in a bad book necessarily), but it seems like it's meant to be messed up. I see how it connects to the other books, but from the looks of it, Snow has a very selfish, self-centered character, to begin with. It's just... Twisted... And slightly triggering.

Jun 26, 2020

In this prequel to The Hunger Games, readers follow Coriolanus Snow during a formative summer in his life. The once-powerful Snow family lost everything when District 13 was obliterated but they're still trying to keep up appearances. Corio needs a scholarship to the University if he's going to have any hope of bettering his family's circumstances. He sees his chance to stand out when he's offered the opportunity to be a mentor for a tribute in the annual Hunger Games. His heart sinks when he's assigned Lucy Gray Baird, the girl from District 12, but he quickly realizes that she's a natural performer and concocts scheme after scheme to capitalize on her talents. The founder of the Hunger Games, Dr. Gaul, begins to view Corio as something of a protege and asks him and his classmates for ideas to make the Hunger Games "better," i.e. more widely watched. Corio finds that he's a natural at this kind of thing, even as he finds himself growing attached to Lucy.

So. I haven't re-read any of the original novels since they were first published and I haven't re-watched any of the movies since their respective releases. So I'm fuzzy on those plot points.

But this didn't do much to further the broader story. Snow is a manipulative prick. We know that. All I learned in this book is that he was even able to manipulate himself into believing he was a good person when he was a teenager. But he's constantly looking out for his own interests and playing the angles that give him the biggest advantages. He's a major kiss-ass and backstabber but he doesn't really acknowledge that, even to himself. His conscience tweaks him every now and then but he easily shuts it up by twisting other characters' motives to justify his own actions. It was interesting to see how the Snow of the later books was shaped so much by this one summer. Dr. Gaul has some pretty brutal theories about warfare and the nature of humanity and she plants her seeds in very fertile soil when she decides to start mentoring Corio.

I would say that his devotion to his grandmother "The Grandma'am," and his cousin, Tigris, are slightly redeeming, but now that I think about it, why was Tigris the one who worked herself to death to support him? He used her too. (I wish I remembered more about Tigris. She shows up in Mockingjay, right? That's all I recall).

While I liked Lucy, I didn't quite understand her actions either. Was she someone who could murder in cold blood? Or was she someone who bought Corio's BS about how much he cared for her? She seemed too street-smart for the latter and too honorable for the former, even when she explained why she did it.

The Hunger Games in this early version are almost unrecognizable as Katniss's Hunger Games. The kids are just thrown into an arena to kill each other or starve to death and no one watches it. That all starts to change the year that Corio and his classmates start mentoring the tributes, which brings up more questions. Why would Dr. Gaul, the force behind the whole idea, ask her students for ideas to make the games more entertaining rather than her Gamemakers? That aside, the introduction of recognizable elements felt a bit clunky. "Oh, I know! We can let the Capitol bet on the outcome." "Oh, wait! It's boring to watch them starve, so why don't we let viewers buy food and supplies? Then the tributes will be in better condition to fight!" That's really how "subtle" it was. And there was a constant reference to "the odds" being in someone's favor or not in regular conversation. That isn't something that's said at the Reaping, so it felt a bit forced.

And the ending was...ambiguous and lackluster.

Maybe I would have enjoyed this more if it had been the true origin of the series, but as a prequel, I never felt any doubt about Corio's path and that robbed the book of a lot of its dramatic tension. By all means, fans should read the book, just don't expect it to add much depth to the series.

Jun 20, 2020

This book is absolutely incredible. It opens a window to new points of view that weren’t considered in the Hunger Games trilogy, and explains the backstory further. It plays with your emotions and understanding to know that once the Capitol was struggling, and it was the fault of the Districts. While in the trilogy, President Snow is presented as evil and sadistic, here he is presented as kind and loving, and even demonstrates that he was once innocent. The way he was so attached to the last he had of his mother, the way he and his cousin were so close, and the idea of him actually being in love were all a bit shocking to those who had read from Katniss’s point of view. I loved the characters- Coriolanus was charming, Lucy Gray was wildly unique, Dr. Gaul creepy but meaningful and Lucky Flickerman a great metaphorical character. The story was intriguing, I never felt the urge to read ahead, and like in the trilogy all action is well timed and balanced. When I first read the Hunger Games trilogy, I wondered, why the Hunger Games? This book brought the question to mind, and explained it through the lunatic Dr. Gaul. The humanity undressed thing was on point and hit home when you consider history and the present, and is just beautifully chilling. The ending was disappointing in a poignant way. Although idealistically Coriolanus would have run off with Lucy Gray and they would have a happy life together, you see how the trauma of it ruins Coriolanus and causes him to have this thirst for power. What guilt and loneliness did to Coriolanus makes you really sympathize with him. President Snow is no Disney villain- he “takes life for very specific reasons” (Mockingjay). And here you see how much he hated killing the first times he knew it was his fault. But by the epilogue, you see what he is becoming. The prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy couldn’t have been more heart-wrenching. In Mockingjay, Tigris is a character, who says that Snow told her she wasn’t pretty enough to be a Hunger Games stylist and left her to sell furry underwear in her run-down shop. When you find out that Tigris was Coriolanus’s cousin and she took care of him since he was five- it really shows what a monster guilt makes Snow into. This doesn’t surpass the trilogy, but it’s definitely necessary for any new reader of The Hunger Games. The new angle puts the seventy-fourth Hunger Games in a whole new light.

Jun 19, 2020

65 years before Katniss Everdeen and the 75th Hunger Games, the world of Panem looked very different. The post-war capital was full of struggling families and the Hunger Games lacked the creativity that distinguished its successors. During the 10th Hunger Games, students from the capital were chosen to be the mentors of the tributes. Enter 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow. The Snows used to be one of the capital’s most prominent families, but in the 10 years after the war, they started to fall into poverty. Coriolanus, determined to save his family’s name, will do anything for his tribute to win the Hunger Games, earning him a scholarship to the capital's prestigious university. On the day of the reaping, Coriolanus finds out that the tribute assigned to him is the girl from district twelve. His hopes start to diminish (district 12 being the poorest district and the girl tribute being supposedly weaker) until the reaping of Lucy Gray Baird. With the resourcefulness of Lucy Gray in a deadly competition, Coriolanus starts to believe that he might have a chance.

It’s hard to love a character who becomes later in life. Through telling the story of a teenage villain-to-be does have its advantages. No one is simply born evil, often that darkness emerges in the teenage years, giving the person a motley of tough decisions. Teenage President Snow starts out fairly likable. He has the ability to care for his classmates, wants to do better in life, and sees the wrong in the capitol’s punishment for the districts. He lives in poverty in a place that is distinguished by its protection from it. I suspect now that the “likable” characteristics I thought of him at first were just brought on through pity. My respect for him as a character slowly disappeared as the book went on. Every time he started to show empathy, his mind quickly chased it away. His ambition to “land on top” is probably his greatest flaw. You can’t really expect more from a man who admitted himself that he wasn't above killing children.

To me, this book would be unreadable except for the fact that it takes place in the world of the Hunger Games. The layered detail of those books created the fact that you could go back after long periods of time and see something different. Something else that was infused with a meaning that you never saw before. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is no different. You see the true meaning behind the series' iconic song, you see how the “modern” Hunger Games came to be. Martin Luther King once said, “We are not makers of history, we are made out of history.” Panem is a place built off a devastating war and the people who decided not to end it. Coriolanus Snow ended up the greatest champion of something that he previously thought was awful. In a place that revolves around the event of children killing children, it’s hard not to forget that you had a hand in someone’s murder.

Jun 17, 2020

I loved this book. You know from the beginning (if you've ready the trilogy), what kind of person President Snow is. I found myself liking him sometimes, then remembering how he ends up. Throughout the book, you can see he's conflicted on so many things and ultimately you know what he'll decide. I loved how it all unfolded and thought it explained a lot of things from the trilogy. I am reading book one again to see what I missed based on this book!

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OPL_KrisC Jun 13, 2020

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

Jun 07, 2020

cchaitu thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

May 25, 2020

jepompilio thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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blue_dolphin_7378 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

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white_wolf_1414 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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Jun 08, 2020

Violence: Like the original Hunger Games trilogy, this book features lots of gore and violence, as characters are killed, hit, battered and bloodied, tortured, and hanged. However, I wouldn't say it's very vividly described, instead, it leaves many details to the imagination.


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