The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

by

I have read The Hunger Games trilogy, and seen the movies. So a prequel was obviously going to be of interest.

Following the originals was never going to be easy, but this initially does a pretty good job.

We jump back in time to when the main villain of the trilogy, President Snow, was just a teenager and the Hunger Games themselves were a low-budget gritty version of what we are familiar with.

No ranking system, no career volunteers, no cushy apartments, no parades and costumes. Just a cage in an empty zoo followed by an arena with some melee weapons.

That part of the story is fine, but after part two comes an abrupt change of pace. In fact the latter stages of the book seem to be full of several of these, which makes the plot feel very disjointed. There’s another about-turn near the end that caught me off-guard as well.

While the main characters, for the most part, are okay — some more memorable than others — there are plenty that are paper-thin and others which appear to be totally superflouous to the story. Their motivations seem to shift and alter without ryhme or reason as well.

The first trilogy was a little odd as the first book was clearly a big success and then there was a call for more books, but there didn’t seem to be a plan for that. The second essentially apes the first. And then it all falls apart in the third.

This book seems to follow a similar sequence, with the first two parts relatively coherent, and the third tacked on like an afterthought to extend the length.

If you’re a fan of the darkness of the originals, then this won’t disappoint — there are more than enough deaths to go around. Most are senseless or pointless. Much like a number of the story beats.

And then everything seems to drop into the protagonist’s lap come the end.

At the start I enjoyed it but the longer it went on the more confused I felt about what it was trying to achieve.

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Reviewed: 19th September 2020