After enjoying The Hunger Games so much I was worried this book wouldn’t work as well, not least because the main premise of the first book, the fight for survival in the games, would be missing. I didn’t need to fear. I loved Catching Fire too.
I also didn’t need to fear missing the games, as Katniss and Peeta get dragged back into the arena for another turn, even though it plays a smaller role in this book. The fun of contestants figuring out what the gamemakers are trying to do to them while attempting to kill/not get killed by the others is all there.
Much of the book is spent outside the games though, where Katniss and Peeta tour the other districts and try not to stir up rebellion with the threats of President Snow hanging over them. Those uprisings underpin the whole book though and influence much of the story. The struggle to keep her family and friends safe is what drives Katniss and, hence, the narrative.
The book wasn’t a complete hit though. The handling of what has become of the Katniss-Peeta-Gale love triangle seemed clumsy, on the one hand Katniss saying she doesn’t want a family, wants to live alone, yet having feelings for both of the men (boys) in her life, flicking between them as if to drag out the (mock) agony for each. I assume it’s designed to add tension and drama to the story, but I’m not sure it succeeds and doesn’t seem to add much more than that.
There’s also the end, which seems very rushed, with no time for explanation or review. It feels a little like the end of a two-part TV show, knowing there would be a third book it’s obviously designed as a cliffhanger to ensure you buy the next book in the series, which I find a little patronising. As such it left me a little unfulfilled. This isn’t a self-contained book (unlike the first one, which implied a future, but could be left as it was).
Still, an enjoyable read that, while it doesn’t introduce anything new, moves the story on for the finale in the next book, Mockingjay.
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Reviewed: 7th August 2011