Suzanne Collins, author of the bestselling trilogy “The Hunger Games”, released a spin-off prequel to “The Hunger Games” titled, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” on May 19, 2020. This novel follows the life of Cornelius Snow, also known as President Snow, as a teenager living in the post-civil war Capital and a mentor of the 10th annual Hunger Games.
Suzanne Collins, 58, is an American television writer and author, known for her best sellers “The Hunger Games” trilogy and “Underland Chronicles”. After the success of “The Hunger Games”, Collins announced that she was working on a prequel to the trilogy that would explore the world of the Hunger Games more in depth.
From the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to the main protagonist Cornelius Snow, his cousin, and his grandmother who have been hiding their crippling financial state ever since their investments in District 13 munitions were wiped away during the First Rebellion (a major civil war throughout the nation of Panem). Due to his family’s high title before the war, Snow had to keep up the charade of a wealthy and prosperous life, even though his family was starving and didn’t have enough money to pay rent. All that will save him and his family’s debt is the annual scholarship offered by his academy to the student with exemplary academic scores and reputation. This is what drives him when he, as well as his peers, are given the news that they will be mentors in the 10th annual Hunger Games. However, being assigned a girl from District 12, Lucy Gray Baird, made the competition all the more challenging for him. Throughout the novel, he develops feelings for Lucy Gray, to a point he never expected he would. Will his infatuation be his downfall or a contributor to his victory? Only the ending will tell.
As a die-heart fan of “The Hunger Games” I was ecstatic when I learned that there would be a prequel to the trilogy, especially since it gives more insight into President Snow’s life. In the books, he simply acts as the boogeyman of Panem, with hardly any inference on his backstory. The trilogy makes you hate him, however, the prequel makes you empathetic for him. There were even moments where I genuinely felt bad for Cornelius, especially when his love was sent to the arena to fight for her life.
This novel gets you really invested into his and Lucy Gray Baird’s love story; getting excited when they get to be together and feeling saddened when they worry for each other. In fact, their love became so sappy that it reminded me of “The Notebook” or a well edited Wattpad fanfiction. In some moments I found myself blushing.
Other than the love story, what I really enjoyed about this novel is the reference to snow. “Snow lands on top” was something Cornelius would always tell himself when he needed motivation to excel. It really drove the fact that his family were once the elite, and that he has to regain that title.
Though my love for the trilogy is intense, there were moments where this novel was extremely boring. At times, the dialogue exchange between characters felt more like filler rather than as a way to continue the story. In contrast to the overdrawn back-and-forth, some moments felt way too fast paced, such as when Cornelius was sent to train as a Peacekeeper. In a couple of pages he was expelled, signed up as a peacekeeper, saying goodbye to his family, and on the train to the training academy.
Overall, I genuinely enjoyed the novel. Lucy Gray Baird is by far one of my favorite characters and I was really invested into her and Cornelius’s love story, even if it was a little cheesy. It also made a lot of sense why,in the original trilogy, Cornelius Snow is ruthless and cruel, while also trying to keep up the image of wealth and class. If anyone is a fan of “The Hunger Games”, I would definitely recommend this novel. I would even recommend it to those who want to get into reading the trilogy but want something that is more easy to grasp, since “The Hunger Games” was a bit complex linguistically. It is most certainly worth the read.