Nearly six years after the worldwide phenomenon “The Hunger Games” released its final chapter on the big screen and ten years since the release of the “Mockingjay” novel, Suzanne Collins released a prequel to her infamous series all about villain President Snow’s beginnings. “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” brought an exciting story of how twisted President Snow is, even from the beginning.
The book sets the scene with an 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow on the Reaping Day of the 10th Hunger Games, where mentors are introduced for the first time in the game’s history. The house of Snow is falling, and the future president is making it his mission to bring his family name back into power whatever way he can. However, when Snow is given the task of mentoring the District 12 female tribute, he’s faced with the difficult task of keeping her alive in the Games.
A striking part of reading the book is understanding that the Games are still in their early developmental stages. Contrary to when Katniss Everdeen entered the Hunger Games during its 74th year — where there’s much more organization and better treatment of the tributes — the 10th Hunger Games is quite the opposite. The Latin term, “panem et circenses,” — which translates to bread and circuses — will see the literal translation into how the original Games treated tributes.
This book is so much different than the rest because readers can see the Games through the mentors’ and viewers’ eyes, rather than being a player in the game themselves. There’s also much more detailed information about the Dark Days and the first rebellion. Readers might end up comparing the two rebellions from the original series and this new novel and may find many similarities and even more differences.
However, what makes this book stand out the most is that many questions left over from the original series are answered. Some examples include the creation of “The Hanging Tree” song, what Peacekeeper life is like, why Snow is obsessed with roses and how mutations were introduced into the Games. Collins also explains how the Games became a reality show through the younger generation.
Snow’s character in the book begins on a different track than what readers may expect. Evil isn’t born — it's created. He doesn’t begin the story perfect, but rather in a gray area between kindness and respectability and longing for total control. His descent into his villainous ways is slow but clear from the beginning. In “Mockingjay,” Finnick Odair explained Snow’s obsessive use of poison to rise to power, and poison is seen frequently throughout this book, too.
Collins humanizes Snow in this novel, but it’s not to a sympathizing extent. She uses Snow’s disposition from the original trilogy and shows how it was created throughout this novel. The female tribute from District 12, Lucy Gray, is a new character in the world and provides more context as to how Snow grew unbelievably cold. Lucy’s a witty character who, like Snow, tries to always think one step ahead. Snow and Lucy have a complex relationship that helps push Snow even further toward his eventual evil self.
Overall, the novel provides readers with an in-depth look into Snow’s character. Through his obsession with power, control and influence from his mentors and peers, readers enjoy an inside look on how scary his mind really is and how it led him to reach for this power in the most despicable ways.
Contact Madison Hricik at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Instagram and Twitter @Breeze_Culture.