The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

After years of relative silence, Suzanne Collins has released a prequel to the best-selling “The Hunger Games” trilogy. Collins’ reappearance into the literary world with her 517-page novel, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes,” comes ten years after the final book in the original trilogy, “Mockingjay,” was released. It is not often that we see the author of such an accomplished Young Adult series take a hiatus of this length. One can only hope this time off results in a 5-star read.

Unfortunately, Collins fell a bit short of expectations. The main problem with the book can be summed up in four words: it is too long. If this same story had been compacted into 300-350 pages, it would have been a successful addition to the fictional world of Panem. Instead, it is good, but not great.

“The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” follows a young, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow. The Snow family is hit hard by the war between the Capitol and the Districts. Coriolanus lives in his old family penthouse with his aging grandmother and cousin, Tigris.

Students from the Academy, including Coriolanus, have been selected to serve as mentors to the tributes of the 10th Hunger Games in an attempt to keep people watching. In a stroke of what he can only see as bad luck, Coriolanus receives the female tribute from District 12, Lucy Gray.

The main problems with this book are the pacing and length. The build-up to The Games is drawn out and the action during them is minimal. The most interesting section of the book happened after The Games ended. This is when readers begin to see more of the twisted Coriolanus Snow from the original trilogy. The characters were interesting, but everything felt as if it should have happened in fewer pages and at a faster pace.

The writing style is undoubtedly Collins, and this helps add nostalgic feelings for those who loved the original trilogy. It was interesting to see origins for some of the technology Katniss and Peeta experience in the 74th Hunger Games. Additionally, readers get to see Coriolanus’ thoughts evolve and turn him into the President Snow many are familiar with.

The length of the novel and the slow pacing make this a difficult book to recommend. It feels nostalgic and is a fair addition to the series, but it is boring at points and takes a while to get through. Fans of “The Hunger Games” should go ahead and give it a shot because of the nostalgic feelings and seeing the Games’ beginnings. Casual readers just looking for a fun book to read should pass.

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