To round out the trilogy, I’ve not long finished Mockingjay, the third instalment in The Hunger Games Trilogy.  It had a lot to live up to when you look at my reactions to the previous two books, The Hunger Games and Catching Fire.  While it provided plenty of twists and turns, action and excitement, this book didn’t as well as its predecessors.

Following on from the end of Catching Fire, Mockingjay sees Katniss and the cast of characters introduced in the previous books as they are welcomed into District 13 — the underground, nuclear-armed enemy of the Capitol — and then tool up and fight back, raising each of the districts to rebellion and finally take on the Capitol itself.

Katniss becomes the embodiment of the resistance as she becomes the Mockingjay, the public face and voice of those who are fighting back against their tyrannical rulers.  All she wants to do is fight, but being too precious to lose, she is wrapped in cotton wool, barely allowed near the front-lines and forced to become the focus of a propaganda campaign.

Following the mentally damaged Katniss, who has survived two games, is certainly not to follow a rising star of victory.  She’s torn apart by guilt, by her love of two men and by duty.  It makes the book a hard slog and, while the first two feature her having to overcome great odds to find triumph, she plays a less direct role in this book, too consumed with herself to be the leader we all hoped she would be, too surrounded by doubt.

I don’t think it was wrong for her character, who has experienced so much loss and misfortune, but as a reader it wasn’t what we wanted.  We wanted to see her in at the deep end, overcoming the odds and striking a definitive victory, we wanted to end with a fictional VE day.  Instead, Katniss presides over a pyrrhic victory, the thunder stolen.  She’s left a shell of the girl she was.

It’s a good book, with some excellent ideas, characterisation and perhaps you could applaud Suzanne Collins for not falling into the stereotypical triumphant, upbeat ending, for staying true to the dark, dystopian vision that started the series, but readers don’t want to spend all their time in the dark, swept up in the grime, we want to be shown the light, shown how it will be better, we want to be resurrected.  And Mockingjay simply doesn’t deliver it.

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Reviewed: 7th September 2011