The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Book - 2020
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"Revisits the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York, New York : Scholastic Press, ©2020.
ISBN: 9781338635171
Characteristics: 517 pages ;,22 cm.

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We learn nothing new about President Snow, he is a terrible human being and always has been. Constantly feeling he is owed more than he actually deserved, and makes comments like when things "smell like poverty".

The love interest was one note and your quintessential manic pixie dream which is a shame because if the story was about Lucy Gray I think it could have been a little more interesting.

This is also chalk full of Easter eggs, that are not subtle but instead Collins hits you repeatedly with a figurative "remember this" bat.

Since this is Suzanne Collins though the book is well written, and for anyone who remembers the Hunger Games knows she can craft a memorable and heart breaking story, this however is not it. This book didn't need to exist, I didn't need to be in Snows head and I am disappointed.

Gina_Vee Jun 28, 2020

I don't know what to think about this book. It's messed up (in the basic way that the Hunger Games storyline is extreme and brutal, not as in a bad book necessarily), but it seems like it's meant to be messed up. I see how it connects to the other books, but from the looks of it, Snow has a very selfish, self-centered character, to begin with. It's just... Twisted... And slightly triggering.

i
IntrovertReader
Jun 26, 2020

In this prequel to The Hunger Games, readers follow Coriolanus Snow during a formative summer in his life. The once-powerful Snow family lost everything when District 13 was obliterated but they're still trying to keep up appearances. Corio needs a scholarship to the University if he's going to have any hope of bettering his family's circumstances. He sees his chance to stand out when he's offered the opportunity to be a mentor for a tribute in the annual Hunger Games. His heart sinks when he's assigned Lucy Gray Baird, the girl from District 12, but he quickly realizes that she's a natural performer and concocts scheme after scheme to capitalize on her talents. The founder of the Hunger Games, Dr. Gaul, begins to view Corio as something of a protege and asks him and his classmates for ideas to make the Hunger Games "better," i.e. more widely watched. Corio finds that he's a natural at this kind of thing, even as he finds himself growing attached to Lucy.

So. I haven't re-read any of the original novels since they were first published and I haven't re-watched any of the movies since their respective releases. So I'm fuzzy on those plot points.

But this didn't do much to further the broader story. Snow is a manipulative prick. We know that. All I learned in this book is that he was even able to manipulate himself into believing he was a good person when he was a teenager. But he's constantly looking out for his own interests and playing the angles that give him the biggest advantages. He's a major kiss-ass and backstabber but he doesn't really acknowledge that, even to himself. His conscience tweaks him every now and then but he easily shuts it up by twisting other characters' motives to justify his own actions. It was interesting to see how the Snow of the later books was shaped so much by this one summer. Dr. Gaul has some pretty brutal theories about warfare and the nature of humanity and she plants her seeds in very fertile soil when she decides to start mentoring Corio.

I would say that his devotion to his grandmother "The Grandma'am," and his cousin, Tigris, are slightly redeeming, but now that I think about it, why was Tigris the one who worked herself to death to support him? He used her too. (I wish I remembered more about Tigris. She shows up in Mockingjay, right? That's all I recall).

While I liked Lucy, I didn't quite understand her actions either. Was she someone who could murder in cold blood? Or was she someone who bought Corio's BS about how much he cared for her? She seemed too street-smart for the latter and too honorable for the former, even when she explained why she did it.

The Hunger Games in this early version are almost unrecognizable as Katniss's Hunger Games. The kids are just thrown into an arena to kill each other or starve to death and no one watches it. That all starts to change the year that Corio and his classmates start mentoring the tributes, which brings up more questions. Why would Dr. Gaul, the force behind the whole idea, ask her students for ideas to make the games more entertaining rather than her Gamemakers? That aside, the introduction of recognizable elements felt a bit clunky. "Oh, I know! We can let the Capitol bet on the outcome." "Oh, wait! It's boring to watch them starve, so why don't we let viewers buy food and supplies? Then the tributes will be in better condition to fight!" That's really how "subtle" it was. And there was a constant reference to "the odds" being in someone's favor or not in regular conversation. That isn't something that's said at the Reaping, so it felt a bit forced.

And the ending was...ambiguous and lackluster.

Maybe I would have enjoyed this more if it had been the true origin of the series, but as a prequel, I never felt any doubt about Corio's path and that robbed the book of a lot of its dramatic tension. By all means, fans should read the book, just don't expect it to add much depth to the series.

m
maroon_cat_560
Jun 20, 2020

This book is absolutely incredible. It opens a window to new points of view that weren’t considered in the Hunger Games trilogy, and explains the backstory further. It plays with your emotions and understanding to know that once the Capitol was struggling, and it was the fault of the Districts. While in the trilogy, President Snow is presented as evil and sadistic, here he is presented as kind and loving, and even demonstrates that he was once innocent. The way he was so attached to the last he had of his mother, the way he and his cousin were so close, and the idea of him actually being in love were all a bit shocking to those who had read from Katniss’s point of view. I loved the characters- Coriolanus was charming, Lucy Gray was wildly unique, Dr. Gaul creepy but meaningful and Lucky Flickerman a great metaphorical character. The story was intriguing, I never felt the urge to read ahead, and like in the trilogy all action is well timed and balanced. When I first read the Hunger Games trilogy, I wondered, why the Hunger Games? This book brought the question to mind, and explained it through the lunatic Dr. Gaul. The humanity undressed thing was on point and hit home when you consider history and the present, and is just beautifully chilling. The ending was disappointing in a poignant way. Although idealistically Coriolanus would have run off with Lucy Gray and they would have a happy life together, you see how the trauma of it ruins Coriolanus and causes him to have this thirst for power. What guilt and loneliness did to Coriolanus makes you really sympathize with him. President Snow is no Disney villain- he “takes life for very specific reasons” (Mockingjay). And here you see how much he hated killing the first times he knew it was his fault. But by the epilogue, you see what he is becoming. The prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy couldn’t have been more heart-wrenching. In Mockingjay, Tigris is a character, who says that Snow told her she wasn’t pretty enough to be a Hunger Games stylist and left her to sell furry underwear in her run-down shop. When you find out that Tigris was Coriolanus’s cousin and she took care of him since he was five- it really shows what a monster guilt makes Snow into. This doesn’t surpass the trilogy, but it’s definitely necessary for any new reader of The Hunger Games. The new angle puts the seventy-fourth Hunger Games in a whole new light.

b
blue_dog_34012
Jun 19, 2020

65 years before Katniss Everdeen and the 75th Hunger Games, the world of Panem looked very different. The post-war capital was full of struggling families and the Hunger Games lacked the creativity that distinguished its successors. During the 10th Hunger Games, students from the capital were chosen to be the mentors of the tributes. Enter 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow. The Snows used to be one of the capital’s most prominent families, but in the 10 years after the war, they started to fall into poverty. Coriolanus, determined to save his family’s name, will do anything for his tribute to win the Hunger Games, earning him a scholarship to the capital's prestigious university. On the day of the reaping, Coriolanus finds out that the tribute assigned to him is the girl from district twelve. His hopes start to diminish (district 12 being the poorest district and the girl tribute being supposedly weaker) until the reaping of Lucy Gray Baird. With the resourcefulness of Lucy Gray in a deadly competition, Coriolanus starts to believe that he might have a chance.

It’s hard to love a character who becomes later in life. Through telling the story of a teenage villain-to-be does have its advantages. No one is simply born evil, often that darkness emerges in the teenage years, giving the person a motley of tough decisions. Teenage President Snow starts out fairly likable. He has the ability to care for his classmates, wants to do better in life, and sees the wrong in the capitol’s punishment for the districts. He lives in poverty in a place that is distinguished by its protection from it. I suspect now that the “likable” characteristics I thought of him at first were just brought on through pity. My respect for him as a character slowly disappeared as the book went on. Every time he started to show empathy, his mind quickly chased it away. His ambition to “land on top” is probably his greatest flaw. You can’t really expect more from a man who admitted himself that he wasn't above killing children.

To me, this book would be unreadable except for the fact that it takes place in the world of the Hunger Games. The layered detail of those books created the fact that you could go back after long periods of time and see something different. Something else that was infused with a meaning that you never saw before. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is no different. You see the true meaning behind the series' iconic song, you see how the “modern” Hunger Games came to be. Martin Luther King once said, “We are not makers of history, we are made out of history.” Panem is a place built off a devastating war and the people who decided not to end it. Coriolanus Snow ended up the greatest champion of something that he previously thought was awful. In a place that revolves around the event of children killing children, it’s hard not to forget that you had a hand in someone’s murder.

k
klaratta
Jun 17, 2020

I loved this book. You know from the beginning (if you've ready the trilogy), what kind of person President Snow is. I found myself liking him sometimes, then remembering how he ends up. Throughout the book, you can see he's conflicted on so many things and ultimately you know what he'll decide. I loved how it all unfolded and thought it explained a lot of things from the trilogy. I am reading book one again to see what I missed based on this book!

AlishaH_KCMO Jun 17, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is about Coriolanus Snow (yes, that President Snow) and his participation in the 10th Hunger Games as a student mentor. Snow and his cousin Tigris, who are both orphans, scrape by with their grandmother in their bare apartment in the Capital. When the 10th Hunger Games comes around, top students are offered, for the first time, to work as mentors to the tributes; a chance at a full ride scholarship to the elite university is also in it for the winner. Even though they lost everything in District 13, Coriolanus must keep up appearances and do everything he can to win. When he first ends up with the girl tribute from District 12, he's less than thrilled, but Lucy Gray Baird will soon turn his life in all kinds of directions as they fight to survive.

So I'm trying to find out where to begin. I know this book is getting such mixed reviews. When I first found out this book would be about Snow, I'll admit, it got me curious. How did he become the way he was in the Hunger Games trilogy? Welp, I sure found out just how self-absorbed, controlling, and cruel I already knew he was. I just got to see where it all kind of started. I already knew he was a villain, so I knew I wasn't going to like him by the end of the book regardless. It doesn't mean I couldn't follow his story. I liked reading about his past and making the connections.

The relationship (and that's if you can even call it that) with Lucy Gray was odd. His idea of love was not it. I'm going to leave it at that because I don't want to ruin anything else.

I did adore Lucy Gray. I rooted for Coriolanus more for her sake than for his. Her personality as a flirt caught me up and I wanted her to live and get back to the Covet. I loved her songs that make her connected to The Hunger Games trilogy.

I also liked seeing another version of Panem and learning more history about it. Honestly, I would love to have a history book just on Panem because it's just so interesting to me.

The book takes place in a time span of roughly two months. The book is long, but it covers so much that goes on. I don't see anything being able to be taken out without ruining the story. It's slow but I was never bored with it.

There's not a redemption arc for Snow. As I said, we already know how he ends up, but it doesn't mean I wasn't filled with slight anxiety as I turned the pages to see what happens. This book gives you more understanding, which, in a way, is more philosophical - Coriolanus has a lot to think about on the reasoning of humanity, war, conflict, and control. You get to see into his mind and observe just how it works. It's both scary and fascinating at the same time. Suzanne Collins has an excellent prose writing ability.

I know this book isn't going to be for everybody. The fact that is mostly psychological and philosophical is something that will divide people. But, I think if you loved and enjoyed the original trilogy, you'll enjoy this novel. It really makes you reflect on meaningful and difficult topics. There's a lot to talk about after.

OPL_KrisC Jun 13, 2020

The though-provoking backstory of President Snow and how he came to be. A must read for Hunger Games fans!

h
HKMar
Jun 13, 2020

I read this book because I am a hunger games series fan, my favorite is catching fire. Not to spoil it for anyone, but this book the prequel. I was taken aback that this is during President Snow's adolescence. This is basically the villians journey. Snow has an intriguing background, but I don't emphasize too much with him because he became the Most ruthless/narcissistic/sociopathic leader. Nonetheless if you're a fan of series definitely check it out.

r
readingfairy
Jun 08, 2020

A chilling and suspenseful recount of 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow's summer as mentor to the District 12 girl tribute in the 10th Hunger Games. This is a thick book of 520 pages, featuring a long plot and many characters that I really enjoyed. Before I read this book, I was worried that the author would try to get me to sympathize with Snow, but luckily this is not the case at all. It's a thought-provoking story about the nature of humanity; as a previous comment said, it really makes you think. Overall I enjoyed all the parts to this story and would HIGHLY recommend this to every Hunger Games fan. The author outdid herself in the writing of this book, and it makes me want to go back and read the trilogy again. P.S. It features the history of the song "The Hanging Tree"!

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Age Suitability

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OPL_KrisC Jun 13, 2020

OPL_KrisC thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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cchaitu
Jun 07, 2020

cchaitu thinks this title is suitable for 13 years and over

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jepompilio
May 25, 2020

jepompilio thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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blue_dolphin_7378
May 23, 2020

blue_dolphin_7378 thinks this title is suitable for 11 years and over

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white_wolf_1414
May 21, 2020

white_wolf_1414 thinks this title is suitable for 12 years and over

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studentsofhim
Mar 12, 2020

studentsofhim thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

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readingfairy
Jun 08, 2020

Violence: Like the original Hunger Games trilogy, this book features lots of gore and violence, as characters are killed, hit, battered and bloodied, tortured, and hanged. However, I wouldn't say it's very vividly described, instead, it leaves many details to the imagination.

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