The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes

by Suzanne Collins

Published by Scholastic

WHEN I first read The Hunger Games trilogy I was immediately invested in everything about the world they described and the stories they told. Suzanne Collins created books that were my transition from novels more aimed towards children to the wider expanse of YA fiction.

It was because of this series that I developed an interest in dystopian works because although they have fantastical aspects, if done correctly they are hauntingly familiar.

Their themes of war, corruption and class divides made those books into classics of the genre. Now, 10 years after the release of the final part of the trilogy, there’s a brand new prequel.

The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes goes back to a time before the heroes of the original series were born. It’s set in the year of the 10th Hunger Games rather than the 75th. The main character in this story is Coriolanus Snow, the cruel and unforgiving President of Panem in the original trilogy, but at this time he is simply a lost teenager.

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With his family in a troubling financial situation and their respected upper-class social standing at risk, Coriolanus needs powerful backing to save him from poverty and obscurity to rise to power.

As an exemplary student at the prestigious Academy, he’s chosen to be a mentor for one of The Hunger Games tributes. If his charge wins he could get a scholarship to the university his family are no longer in any position to pay for.

Coriolanus’s seemingly straightforward route to success is thrown off track when he’s assigned the female tribute from District 12, the poorest district that has produced the lowest number of victors in the past.

At first he feels disappointed, and envious of those with better candidates, but this all changes after his tribute Lucy Gray Baird causes a scene at her introduction by releasing a snake from her brightly coloured dress and singing a song to the shocked crowd.

Most of the power that The Hunger Games holds comes from it being a spectacular event that encourages people to back their favourite contestant. The goal of those taking part is to make themselves interesting by attracting as much attention as possible. Lucy’s opening gambit immediately made her a much more intriguing competitor to the Capitol and to Coriolanus.

Throughout his journey mentoring Lucy, there’s a clear sense of Coriolanus being seduced by corruption. Like many determined to get to the top, he learns what he’s prepared to do to get there.

The reader also learns the great lengths this character will go to for power and an important place in a society. It’s easy to understand the small decisions he makes which lead to the kind of cruelty and selfishness of a typical villain.

Often, a new extension of a story you regard as a classic can be disappointing or struggle to live up to the original. However this prequel certainly defies that expectation. The depth of character and themes in this novel create the perfect back story to the perfect dystopian series.