The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes – 4 stars

Synopsis

Ambition will fuel him. Competition will drive him. But power has its price.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and out manoeuvre his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined — every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favour or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Review

I enjoyed this account of how a young Coriolanus Snow became the dark and evil President Snow in the Hunger Games trilogy. I always find it had to believe when stories have essentially good-hearted, hero-type, characters turn evil (Anakin Skywalker, anyone?) without providing a solid basis for how they changed, but Snow was never particularly good hearted. You could see right from the beginning (when he’s about eighteen years old) the seeds of what he might turn out to be one day, and so I found his slow progression toward that quite believable. The end I thought was a little rushed – I really would have liked to see his final turn into ‘evildom’ play out a little more in depth rather than shoved into a few pages at the end… but despite that I bought what happened and felt a little shiver of darkness when I read it

Apart from Snow, I enjoyed the other characters in the book, especially Lucy Grey, who brought out Snow’s humanity but in the end wasn’t enough to stop him turning into a villain. The book poses some interesting questions about control of a population versus war, offering the perspectives of why someone like Snow would crave authoritarian rule. It would be interesting to go back and read the Hunger Games now knowing this back story for Snow. ⭐⭐⭐⭐ from me

QOTD: For those that have read it, what are your thoughts on how Meyer handled Snow’s backstory?

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