Review: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

Monday, November 2nd, 2020: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes

INTRODUCTION Written and published in 2020, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a prequel to the world-renowned Hunger Games series authored by Suzanne Collins. It was released to the public in May and met with general acclaim and commendation. Given that it has been only a few months since the release, no movie adaptation has been made. There have been rumors, however, of one in development, and since most people did enjoy the four movies the producers managed to squeeze out of the original three Hunger Games novels, it’s more than likely that they are true.

SUMMARY The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes details a young, Capitol-bred man’s ascent to power—the very same individual who later becomes known as President Snow of Panem and is widely regarded as the main antagonist of the Hunger Games series. His name is Coriolanus—Coriolanus Snow. A diligent, power-hungry student at the Academy, he is assigned the female tribute from District Twelve for the tenth annual Hunger Games. And as the Academy mandates, he is to mentor his tribute and do his best to help her win the Games. 

The odds don’t seem at all in his favor—his tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, is a small, petite girl about his age, and she lacks any experience in physical combat. She’s faced with a major size disadvantage—most of the other tributes tower over her—and, in general, looks weak and easy to eliminate. But Coriolanus soon discovers her greatest strength: her singing voice. When she sings, everyone stops to listen—even the birds outside fall silent. He cleverly uses her ability to appeal to the audience, and soon everyone in the Capitol knows who Lucy Gray Baird is. And when the Games begin, she receives hundreds upon hundreds of sponsors, who supply her with food and water in the arena. While the other tributes kill each other off, she hides in the shadows, employing devious tactic after tactic, until she outlasts everyone else, until they all fall dead to malnutrition, to starvation, to food poisoning, and—and she wins the tenth annual Hunger Games.

There still is, however, still another half of the book to get through—which is interesting, because we might have expected Lucy’s victory to conclude the story. Instead, accused of having cheated in the Games, she is returned unceremoniously to District Twelve. Coriolanus follows her, now madly in love, and together they reunite and make plans for the future. They fall for each other, and they prance around in a lover’s paradise, free from the real world and all the negativity it entails. 

But it doesn’t last for long—the dream they shared for the future ends as quickly and abruptly as it had started. They suddenly find themselves in the middle of an uprising against the Capitol, and amidst the turmoil, Coriolanus breaks free of his love for Lucy Gray that has blinded him for far too long—he succumbs to the darker side of human nature, leaving behind all that he once held dear at his heart. And as he continues his quest for power, friends are betrayed, alliances are broken, and innocent lives are hanged—power, after all, has its price.

REVIEW I would give this book a 10/10. It’s so nice to get a backstory on Coriolanus Snow, the man we’ve all hated unconditionally since day one. It’s a satisfying work of art for fans of the Hunger Games and also very relevant to the things we do and the topics we discuss today at the same time. You won’t even need to know a lot about the original series, either. Wonderfully crafted, poignant—a must-read, in my opinion!