New Hunger Games prequel captivates readers

Book Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes


Photo by: Nicole Quiram

Suzanne Collins realeses newest addition to the Hunger Games series.

On May 19, 2020, author Suzanne Collins released The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, the highly anticipated prequel to the popular dystopian series, The Hunger Games. Set as the main character, the book follows a young Coriolanus Snow, as he navigates his first mentorship opportunity during the tenth annual Hunger Games.

Collin’s work revolves around Snow’s Capital assignment to the female District 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, recognized for performing a song at the reaping. After witnessing her talents, Snow knows he has a special tribute on his hands, causing him to showcase her talents to the Capital for his own benefit. Snow’s actions highlight his family’s troubled past, which acts as his motivation for his actions in the original three books. Throughout the novel, Snow must navigate changes within the games, balance friendship, and maintain family struggles.

The book reveals many things about Snow’s past that provide background information to answers questions that The Hunger Games series had left unsatisfied; for instance, readers discover the origin of Snow’s obscure rose obsession and his initial motivations that lead to his cruel leadership style. Over the course of the games, readers may even develop a sense of empathy towards Snow and his unprivileged Capital lifestyle as a coming-of-age teen. Not only does this novel fill a void left by the ending of the first three books, but it also reveals Snow’s true intentions while he competes for a scholarship to the Capital’s prestigious University in hopes of securing an esteemed job within the security of the Capital.

Die-hard Hunger Games fans can spot many similarities between the prequel and the original series. Many of the new characters continue their family legacies, as noted when the host of the Hunger Games in the original series introduces himself as Caesar Flickerman, who corresponds with the prior host in the prequel series, Lucky Flickerman. The connection of characters adds more familiarity to the book, given that they take place along different timelines. In addition, the tenth Hunger Games follows similar procedures and traditions seen in the original games. Mentors begin interviews with the tributes, an important aspect that is a part of the originals as well. While there exist some differentiating events, fans still recognize crucial details that make up the iconic Hunger Games. One of the differences that stands out the most primarily focuses on the mentors. In the original book, previous Hunger Games victors become mentors; yet in the prequel, since the games have not yet produced enough victors, teenagers from the Capital fill the position for the first time in history, offering a new perspective, the ability to experience the arena from the Capital’s point of view, adding to a level of mystery regarding what exactly happens to the tributes. Gaining insight into Snow’s Capital lifestyle also comes into play as details emerge on all the mentors competing for a scholarship to the Capital’s University and acknowledges elite social standings in a cut-throat environment.

With an approximate 3.8 star rating on Goodreads, many people have given the novel favorable reviews, but not quite everyone agrees. Some readers jumped at the opportunity to learn more about the symbols used throughout the series, while others think the book unfolds too slowly, without enough action. Either way, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a must-read for supporters of the original Hunger Games series, as it brings readers back into the terrifying, yet enthralling, nation of Panem.