When I saw the new trailer for the The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie, I thought, Well, I guess I’d better read the book!
Like a lot of people, when the book was announced a couple of years ago, I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it. President Snow is the villain of The Hunger Games, after all.
Here’s the thing about this book: compared to Katniss’ close point-of-view in The Hunger Games, this prequel feels very distant.
The book is from Corolanius’ point of view, sure, but it’s a distant third. We’re not bathed in his fear, horror, and opinions like we are Katniss’. When the Hunger Games happen, we’re nothing but a spectator alongside Corolanius, watching from the outside. Because of this, despite it being a literal life or death situation, it didn’t feel like it actually was a life or death situation, and I found myself skimming the depictions of the Games. There’s also a myriad of side characters, and most of them felt rather flat and blurred together.
All of that being said, I thought the ending was well done.
Overall, this book was just okay. I think Collins’ publishers were probably like, “Hey, you need to write a prequel,” and she just had to roll with it. However, I do think it will translate better on screen when we can be more involved in the Games, so I still plan on watching the movie!
Anna: I’m sorry to say that I was so disappointed by this! In the vein of 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘊𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘊𝘩𝘪𝘭𝘥, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 read like a total money grab. I really enjoyed 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘥’𝘴 𝘛𝘢𝘭𝘦, and in no way did 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 feel like its sequel. For one, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 lacks the tension and literary weight of 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘥’𝘴 𝘛𝘢𝘭𝘦 in every way.
𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘥’𝘴 𝘛𝘢𝘭𝘦 is slow-paced and slowly reveals the horror of the dystopian world of Gilead. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴, on the other hand, is pace-y, dialogue heavy, and driven mostly by plot. It completely lacks the dark, creeping so prevalent in 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘥’𝘴 𝘛𝘢𝘭𝘦.
Set fifteen years after 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘏𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘥’𝘴 𝘛𝘢𝘭𝘦, 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘛𝘦𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘴 is told in three perspectives. There’s Agnes, who grows up in a prominent family in Gilead; Daisy; living in the free country of Canada; and, wait for it… the third is Aunt Lydia’s perspective. My biggest problem is Aunt Lydia’s storyline, which just wasn’t believable for me. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I just didn’t buy any of it. The other two perspectives were interesting enough. That is, until they started to overlap, which is where I really think this book fell apart.
Unfortunately, I came away from this feeling that Atwood was forced into this book in response to the show. I’m so sad–I really wanted to love this!
VERDICT: 3 stars
In the age of JK Rowling, who has exploited her wold and characters for everything that she can (disclaimer, I still love the original Harry Potter books), I feel that having a bestselling book or series isn’t enough any more. The new Hunger Games book coming out this year, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is a prime example. It’s a prequel to the series that reveals the backstory of President Snow. I’m so over prequels and have no desire to read this. I think that sometimes there’s value in letting a good book or series stand on it’s own. I know things like book deals and an author’s career are part of this, but I think I’ll be avoiding any long-awaited add ons to old favorites for a while.