so a few nights ago, I finished the Hunger Games prequel book: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, and I wanted to share my thoughts. I love the Hunger Games universe, it's my favourite dystopian/fantasy book/film franchise.
I can remember reading the first book in high school when I was asked to be part of a book quiz group that would compete against other schools. THG films weren't out at the time, so I only had my own imagination to rely on, but this book came alive in my mind and I fell in complete love with it. it's funny because when the trailer came out for the first film, I was outraged. what I saw on my screen was in no way what I'd imagined when I'd read. it's funny how I just felt so against the films, but now I adore the adaptations. The series as a whole is just brilliant, and my family recently rewatched them all with me so I could share the story with them.
I'm not a major part of the fandom, so I was kinda on my own when I saw a prequel was going to be released. I couldn't wait, and ordered it when I saw it had been published! over 500 pages of reading later, and I've finished it and am ready to give my thoughts...
THE REST OF THIS POST WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR 'THE BALLAD OF SONGBIRDS AND SNAKES' AND 'THE HUNGER GAMES' TRILOGY BY SUZANNE COLLINS
I was really excited to hear we'd be getting a prequel for President Snow. He's an interesting guy. I would one day like a prequel for Johanna, Haymitch, Mags, omg for everyone! But I think if we're getting prequels, the president himself, and the big reason as to why all the other characters joined together was a good place to start.
I have thoughts along the story, so I'll split my thoughts into 3, like the book does!
Part I: The Mentor
I think it's so interesting to see someone who we know will become the villain of Panem, as someone caring, and loving and unsure of the building world around him. Eating cabbage soup compared to the lavish meals seen in his future, it's crazy to see how even someone from the Capitol, can feel not Capitol at all! And then TIGRIS! omg what a shocker! 16 lines in and bam! we're hit with a shocker of a twist that I don't think anyone expected. It really took me back for a second, googling to make sure I wasn't imagining things. But it's true, the cousin of the future president is the stylist Tigris, who is a character in the Mockingjay book and second Mockingjay film! It's funny because we see the pair as bffs really, who need each other to survive in this cruel world. But it's crazy to know where they'll end up, and it really changes the meanings of what is said in the hunger games books in regards to Tigris' thoughts on Snow!
I was really intrigued to see how this story would play out. We know where he ends up, so how does he get there?
From the start to the end of the book, there is song after song. Some new, some old, nice to see where things originated really! I liked how it really inspired how the story was told.
It was crazy reading it, because in the other books and films, we see the hunger games as a no expense spared, lavish, beautiful but evil event. In this book, we just see it as evil. It isn't fully formed, and it feels like experiments or something, but it was really cool to see it as that. Obviously it's not nice to think about killing children, but it had to start somewhere, and especially after the war, the capitol didn't have money for it's citizens, let alone to house the tributes in a luxury hotel and feed them. It was a shock really, and one I'm glad we had. I did expect them to be as we knew them, but to be honest, they wouldn't be. They were still in their beta stage. Wild to think of the hunger games as a silly idea once thought up by students is now in it's 10th year and is still not what it wants to be. I really liked it, but one thing I didn't get was the food. Surely the tributes were collected after the reaping, waited a few days and then were sent straight into the arena. I'm not surprised so many died, but I'm more surprised they hadn't changed this situation following people starving in the previous ones. surely that would've happened. Even if each tribute got just one slice of bread each day, something you know. I guess it might've shown weakness in the Capitol, but if I'd had no food for days, I would've not been in a fab state to get up, let alone win the hunger games haha!
I liked our introduction to Lucy Gray in her fabulous rainbow dress and song! I did feel sorry for her, as from the other books, we know district 12 had had no other winners of the games, so I knew she'd die. but damn I just didn't realise it wouldn't be like that!
it was cool to hear familiar names and hear of places we knew about!
the arena was a cool idea. now I'd learnt not to expect a shiny exciting place where the fighting would take place, it was cool to hear of the arena that would be used and then obviously the bombs that change it. A bit like when I read the original trilogy, I didn't imagine the arenas to be as big as they were, so this literal bomb site felt small and very open to me. obviously that's not how the writer sees them, but I did find it a little difficult to imagine, especially after the bombings. maybe my imagination wasn't on my side, but I did feel slightly let down by the arena.
PART II: THE PRIZE
adding to that, how were Coriolanus and Sejanus able to enter the arena and the tributes not able to get out? like what the heck? it made me a little disappointed. the story felt great, seeing this mentor where he wasn't meant to be like wow that imagery! but I was also a little let down by the fact it was so easy to get into. I understand that the capitol isn't as updated like what we're used to, but you'd at least think that they'd put the tributes somewhere that wasn't easy to get in and out of lolllll!
I was intrigued to see how these tributes would act, especially after we were going into the games with a lot less people than normal. These weren't killers, not people who were used to the reaping every year. It was like they'd been kidnapped and forced to a be a show to say that the capitol had power and the districts didn't. I do feel that in that sense, it's stronger than the Hunger Games trilogy with the games. But I'm glad that they did separate, they formed allies but were happy to kill. I like how Suzanne Collins writes about human nature and our fight or flight complex. It's a bit like Lord of the Flies, and how power will always overtake good, even if the powerful think they're doing the right thing. I enjoyed (I don't think enjoyed is the right word but ya know what I mean) reading the book during the time in the arena, it's always interesting to see how people will react, especially in this one compared to the Games where everything is perfect and clean.
I think like most people, I didn't expect Lucy Gray to win. at all! We know from the original trilogy that there hasn't been a female victor from district 12 before, so I was waiting for her to die. and waiting. and waiting. and omg she's won?? this story was full of twists and turns and I think most of them owed themselves to what we thought we knew about Panem and the games, rather than the truth. I liked it, but also felt that surely people would remember her, or at least bring up the fact that district 12 once won the games. I liked it but didn't. but mainly liked it.
PART III: THE PEACEKEEPER
Now, I didn't expect this, I don't think anyone did. it was such a cool and interesting twist. When I was younger, I always thought that the stormtroopers in Star Wars were dumb robots, when actually they're dumb people in armour. From the look of the films, peacekeepers are kinda robot looking things, but they are just people in armour. Until we get to Mockingjay, we don't really see one without their mask, so I was always intrigued by how they got their jobs and their loyalties. I loved learning more about them. A bit like Avoxes, they seem a big part of the story, but also not front and centre, but still interesting enough to inspire a need for knowledge about them! it's nice to know they get 3 meals a day and weekends off hahah!
I didn't know what to expect from the rest of this story. I was really hoping we'd see Snow change more into the person he becomes, but he doesn't. he seems to go about his new life and everything looks fine and dandy. I WANTED MORE! Truth be told, I did feel a little disappointed and bored by this final section, as it was just collecting birds, seeing Lucy Gray at the hob, and trying to stop Sejanus from doing dumb things. omg Sejanus was so dumb (although I do completely understand why he is how he is).
BUT THEN THE OTHER TWIST! Like I said, I wasn't over the moon by this new boring life, but to twist the final chapter and make love, not Coriolanus' goal anymore, but his career and future and the capitol was interesting. Like him, I was left wondering what he'd choose and how he would. We know that Snow has a granddaughter in the future, but obviously a girl from the districts, or not as she'd say, is not what Snow wants to bet his life on. I liked seeing this pair grow together for good, but then realise the truths and pain and eventually harm each other.
I love how Snow had this vision of his future, but when he was handed an offer he couldn't refuse, well, we see who he truly is. Someone who will always put himself and winning first. I didn't consider putting the book down, but I was thinking to myself that I wasn't sure where the book was going, but that final chapter ooooh yes mm hmmm that's the one!
oh my word I feel I've written so much but also nothing at the same time. It's so hard to capture the essence of a book in a few lines, let alone chat about the whole thing in one blogpost so I won't try hahah! if I think of any other thoughts, I may come back and add them, but for now, I'm happy, even though I feel I haven't even scratched the surface of the book.
I love when there's questions at the back of books, and there are some in the back of TBOSAS. I thought it'd be cool to ask myself a few!
What meaning do you find in the title The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (particularly with the plurals of songbirds and snakes)?
Literally, this story is filled with birds that sing as well as a group of people who live to sing their stories. Again, snakes are seen in the story from the reaping, to the arena, to the possible death of Lucy Gray. As well as being physical things that we see and the characters hear in the story, they're used as metaphors to show us the current state of the world and the people in it. There are people who fill the world with joy and song, but sometimes their words don't reflect the joyful melody and harsh truths are released. People are often referred to as snakes if they go behind other's backs and are filled with lies. I like how this title is very on the nose. The story is filled with songbirds and snakes, both literally, and in how people act and respond and fight. But I also feel it links back to the original Hunger Games books, how the birds lingered to sing their tales and also spread caution, and that snakes are never far behind. With good will always be bad, but with bad, there will always be good.
If you are familiar with the original Hunger Games trilogy, how is the world as presented here different from the one you know there?
It's funny because like I said previously, I did expect everything to be up and running to the standard of the other stories, but due to the war, it's not yet. It's crazy to see the districts, dirty and poor and cold, no different to how we know they'll be in the future. It's upsetting really to know that the rich will continue to be rich and build and grow, yet the poor will stay poor and worried and helpless. It really is a comparison to the real world really.
How does the story of the Lucy Gray in the ballad reflect the life of Lucy Grey Baird?
Ok, before I get into my English literate GCSE state, this is a REAL poem by Wordsworth. Like what? I still can't believe it. And they also mention it in the book. It really frames the idea that the hunger games is our worlds future as a real thing. I always imagined it was just a fantasy place that was made up, but with this included, it cements the idea that our world may one day come down to this which is mental!
A bit like Coriolanus, I was a bit confused by the poem at first, just seeing the basic story and being unsure about some points. Ignoring those basics and looking into it further, we see a young girl presented to us, alone and possibly scared by being sent out into the storm with just a lantern as a guide. It's a ghost story that gives us chills, but also the nice idea that Lucy Gray isn't lost, just still wondering through nature to find home.
For me, the life of Lucy Gray matches the ballad like this: She's sent out into danger with a light. Lucy Gray is chosen for the hunger games and her light is her song. Her parents who are meant to care for her are the ones who sent her. The capitol, which is meant to care for the districts, does the complete opposite really. We see her footprints in the snow, worrying if she'll be found. We see Lucy Gray take part in the games, unsure if she'll make it home safely. In the final verses, we learn that Lucy Gray is part of the wild, singing her song. She has made it home, to be alone with her song. The idea of the poem and Lucy Gray will weigh on Panem like the wind, a light breeze that will pass people and be left forgotten but that doesn't mean she's not there. Just because she's been killed, doesn't mean she never existed, and her song still lives on.
Does that make sense? hahah!
Why do you think Gaul chose to send Coriolanus into the arena? What does this experience reveal about Coriolanus' nature?
First of all, did anyone else imagine Dr Gaul to look like the scientist who invents the parallel universe thing in Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse? just me? hahah!
|here's a pic for reference!|
I think Dr Gaul knew what Coriolanus would become. How his mind would be shaped over the games and he would become someone strong. But he also can be kind and gentle, just what they needed when Sejanus entered and just needed some guidance. If peacekeepers had gone in, or even his mother, it would've been messy. Gaul knew she could trust Coriolanus to keep his head down and act fast, and act with intent if needed.
Like I've said, I think this shows us that Coriolanus is level headed and can deal with things quickly, but he will kill, to save himself and the people he wants to protect. To be honest, I didn't know how the story would help us see how this kind, normal boy would become a crazy president, but this moment really does flick a switch for all of us. we realise that Snow is calm, but can also be crazy.
I really enjoyed discovering more about the Hunger Games and Panem and their histories. I love the universe and series, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. Apparently a film of the book is in the works, and who knows if we'll get any other prequels, or even sequels. Whatever happens, it's nice to know that there is more than just the original trilogy, and that other people think it deserves to be written about.
if you reread it someday, I wonder if you'll still have the same thoughts future anna?