YA Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Edition: Hardback
Rating: 5/5

A new Hunger Games book was always going to be high on my list, and I pre-ordered this from Waterstones to make sure I had it on publication day! I didn’t know much about it in advance, and I jumped into the story of the tenth Hunger Games without knowing what to expect.

It’s not as fast-paced as the Hunger Games trilogy, but the pace fits the theme of the book. The Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes is told from the point of view of the teenaged Coriolanus Snow, later president of Panem. This book finds him in his final year of school, keeping up with assignments and trying to stay on the right side of the teachers who will decide his future. When he is offered the chance to act as a mentor to one of the tributes in the Hunger Games, he sees an opportunity to make his name.

This prequel to the trilogy fleshes out Snow’s backstory, and gives the reader an insight into the uncompromising character we know from the original books. Some aspects of his life are surprising, but everything that happens in the book adds context to his future career, and his political views. My copy includes an interview with the author, in which she explains the various political philosophies that shape the story. It is Snow’s philosophical education that forms the core of the book, with various teachers and friends representing different ways of thinking about human nature, power, and society. His exposure to these views, the conflict he feels, and his eventual alignment, are the point of the story.

But it’s not all conversation and philosophy. There’s plenty of personal danger, friendship, tragedy, scheming, and betrayal, and some heart-pounding moments that put the reader in the centre of the action. Snow is by no means a perfect student, a perfect friend, or a perfect mentor, and some of his decisions have dramatic, unexpected outcomes. The stakes are high throughout the book, and Snow’s determination to survive is the force that drives the story and the plot twists.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is not what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it. It offers an insight into the antagonist of the Hunger Games trilogy without making him entirely likeable, or letting him off the hook for the decisions he makes. It’s an interesting addition to the series, and it made me want to pick up the other books again. Definitely worth a read – but make sure you’ve read the Hunger Games trilogy first.

Have you read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes? What did you think of the Snow’s story? Did you like him more, or less, by the end of the book? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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