Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Publication Date: May 19th 2020
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Own

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It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out-charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined -- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

 Okay so..if you've not heard of this book, you've been living under a rock. (P.s check out my reading vlog for this book on my booktube channel). 

This book is a prequel to the hunger games trilogy, following president snow as a teenager growing up in the capitol in the times of the 10th hunger games. 

Coriolanus Snow in this novel is young, poor and hungry to prove himself so he can then provide for his struggling family. Coriolanus enlists as a mentor in the hunger games in the hopes of achieving a scholarship to university. He is paired up with the District 12 tribute, traveller and singer Lucy Gray Baird. 
Lucy Gray is a louder than life, cunning but charming character. Her positive outlook on life counteracts Coriolanus's negative. Combined with Coriolanus's ambition to succeed in the games with his tribute, he and Lucy work to make her chances the best they can be in the games. 

Although I feel that there was supposed to be some desire for the reader to enjoy the "romance" between Lucy and Coriolanus but I did not. At all. 
The relationship between them begins as a way for Coriolanus to better himself and bring glory back to his family name. Therefore his whole reasoning for their relationship to succeed, is for his gain. Every move in their relationship, is a game of chess to Coriolanus where he must keep moving forward to win. 
The power imbalance in their relationship also made me very uncomfortable throughout the novel. Coriolanus is coming from a position of power, even though he is poor- he is capital poor, not district poor. He also comes from an education and a life of more resources available to him than Lucy could dream of. The power imbalance therefore makes their relationship non-equal. Coriolanus has this albeit invisible upper hand in their relationship. Therefore I could not support the relationship at all. It made me very uneasy. 

A character that I really enjoyed in the novel was Sejanus. He was a great character- the biggest cinnamon roll in the book but also at the same time, he could be a little yikes. Sejanus was definitely that guy who sees all the wrong in the world and wants to be the one to make a change, but ends up going about things in the wrong way. He was definitely the "Gale" of the book - since I know people have been comparing Lucy to Katniss

Sejanus was my favourite character in the entire book. His friendship with Coriolanus, which was begrudgingly accepted by Coriolanus who viewed it as a way to exploit Sejanus's much richer family assets, was actually sweet. You could see Sejanus just wanted to do right, to have a friend and live in a good world. 
Sejanus and Coriolanus was definitely the ship of the book for me...no question. They fit together so well, Sejanus was clearly in love with Coriolanus and especially in the beginning of the book when Sejanus comments that Coriolanus keeps "saving him" and Coriolanus says "I can't help it". 
Tbh, I really wanted Sejanus and Coriolanus to be a couple but hey ho, at least we got to read like 1 sentence about a gay couple...representation I guess? 
Side note: Sejanus's mother- what a fantastic warm character. I loved her. 

This book really did so great in showing us the beginnings and origins of the games as we know them. We see that even though it is the 10th games, there is still a "new" atmosphere around the games as they are still experimenting and trying out new things. I found the capital mentor & tribute dynamic interesting. 
One of the most captivating parts were definitely the scenes with Dr. Gaul as she experiments and tries to find even more evil torture methods for the tributes. She is so creepy and terrifying. 

I really enjoyed the references to the hunger games books, or what we would typically know from those books- like the Katniss flower popping up, familiar names like Heavensbee, Crane etc., 
Also Tigris in the novel was interesting, I never realized she was Snows cousin. 

Although there was so much I enjoyed about the book, I did feel my attention waning at times. Not so much full on boredom, but more just reading through some parts so I could get to a more exciting part if that makes sense? I definitely felt there were exciting scenes, and not so exciting scenes, with some feeling a little dragged out. 

Overall I very much enjoyed this book. If you are a big hunger games fan like I was, then I really think that reading this book will add to your enjoyment of the series and not detract. Really interesting character and political driven novel by such an amazing author. I would absolutely love if someday Suzanne Collins released short stories on each of the tributes we are familiar with, such as Johanna Mason or Finnick Odair on their experiences in the games and the affect on their lives afterwards. 
Check out my reading vlog for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on my booktube channel here!

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