When The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins was first announced back in October of 2019, I was skeptical. It was described as the story of young President Snow and that the reader was going to see Snow in a different light. My first reactions to this were “how in the heck am I going to be able to feel any type of sympathy for this psychopath?” Let me tell you, the feelings I had during this book were all over the place. I am so excited to share with you my take on it and I’d love to hear yours as well.
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The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows an 18-year old Coriolanus Snow as he navigates the 10th Hunger Games. You’re immersed in the Capitol where the head gamemaker is looking to spice things up for this year’s Hunger Games. The senior students are the first ever mentors and the games start to morph into what we know them to be in the first Hunger Games novel. The twists and turns are shocking, and in the end, it’s no surprise why President Snow is such a ruthless person.
My Review (SPOILER AHEAD!)
I’m probably going to say this very often, but I haven’t felt this way about a book in a very long time. I was riveted. I couldn’t stop reading. My husband was reading it along with me and he had a hard time getting into it at first. By chapter 4 he couldn’t stop either. So, have patience until you get to chapter 4… it is a slower start, but then it gets crazy.
As you get into the story, you meet Corio (President Snow at 18) and his classmates. You then find out that the Hunger Games is coming up and the students are going to be the first ever mentors. Exciting right?
The reapings happen and District 12 is as eventful as ever! Lucy Gray Baird is chosen as the female tribute and Corio is assigned to her. This disappoints him. Apparently the Snow’s were once big shots in the capitol, now they are barely hanging on. To Corio, being assigned to the District 12 tribute is an insult. He had expected to be assigned to one of the more “successful” districts based off of his social standing.
You will soon learn that the Snow’s are broke as a joke and have nothing to their name. Corio’s dad was sent off to war and died. He was apparently a big shot in the military and a key player in suppressing the districts. Corio’s mother died during childbirth while his father was off to war. Corio and his grandmother are all that are left, oh and his cousin… TIGRIS! WHAT!?!?!
During this introduction to the post-war Capitol and Corio’s misfortunes, we also meet the head gamemaker, Dr. Gaul. THIS WOMAN IS AWFUL! I am convinced that she is worse than President Snow. Like I hate her, which is definitely how we are intended to feel. I mean she is on Dolores Umbridge’s level!
Corio also ends up falling in “love” with his tribute, but I question if he is even capable of love. The entire relationship was very strange. I don’t know that he ever trusted her, his jealously was hugely present. Then, when he basically “lost control” of her, their relationship ended.
You will also meet Corio’s “best friend”, Sejanus. I use the term best friend very loosely here. I don’t think Corio considers him a friend, but he ends up being someone useful to him so he keeps Sejanus around. That is, until he can’t control him anymore. It is shocking, but not surprising, how easily Corio turns on people when his prospects of success may be threatened.
Throughout the book, you witness the 10th Hunger Games from beginning to end. After they are over, you also see where Corio ends up, and what presumably shapes him to become President Snow. There are so many twists and turns that it is seriously super enjoyable to read.
This book is filled with so many instances of foreshadowing that it’s impossible to recount all of them. One of the main ones was at the beginning when the mentors and tributes are taken on a tour of the arena. When they do this tour, bombs go off inside the arena. The Capitol obviously blames District Rebels, but I question whether Dr. Gaul planted them. I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised because didn’t that happen in Mockingjay at the end? It just seems too familiar.
Another thing that was full of foreshadowing is how Corio felt about the games in general. He is unimpressed with how they are run– the treatment of the tributes, the run-down arena, the lackluster control room for the gamemakers. These are all things that we see have changed and evolved. There are also some things that happen in the arena that are the beginnings of what we know the Hunger Games to be when Katniss is a tribute.
This book really exposed Snow. You could see all of the cracks in his otherwise rock solid facade. It is blatantly clear what his weaknesses are… predominantly not being in control. He is the embodiment of a narcissist, and I truly wonder if he really did love Lucy, or if he was just using her to win. I also question the same thing about her, did she really love him too or was she manipulating him?
I really, really enjoyed this book. I was mad at the ending, but I think that was intended as well. I am still shook by how quickly Snow turns on people, but not surprised. I definitely recommend reading The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, especially if your are a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy.