Our Review of the New Hunger Games Novel

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“If he didn’t find a way to feed her, she’d be dead before the Hunger Games even began.” 

Cover art for the North American first edition

We all know where President Snow ends up – but how did he get there? With the publication of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, Suzanne Collins brings fans of The Hunger Games series Snow’s origin story.

Entertainment Weekly Exclusive: Drawing of Young Coriolanus Snow

Sixty-four years before Katniss Everdeen volunteers as a tribute for District 12, Coriolanus Snow struggles to stay afloat in a post-war Capitol that is still rebuilding. In the eyes of the Capitol, the people in the districts aren’t people at all – they’re animals. Coriolanus is certain that he is superior to them every way, even if he is just as hungry. He also knows that he was born to lead. But if he can’t keep up appearances he might have to move out of his family’s penthouse – and then how will he ever achieve his dream of becoming President?

It is the tenth year of The Hunger Games. The Capitol is eager to continue the annual battle between the children of Panem, but the Games face two problems: they need viewers and money to continue. In an effort to boost ratings, twenty-four of the Capitol’s Academy students are selected to mentor the tributes from the districts. For the tributes, losing means death. For the mentors, winning means a scholarship to attend the University. Coriolanus has his eyes on the prize, but first, he must overcome his unfortunate pairing with a tribute from District 12. (And we know he doesn’t like an underdog.)

Like the original trilogy, this novel tackles themes of poverty, pride, greed, and revenge – along with the casual dehumanization of those who are perceived as outsiders. What makes this book even more challenging is that these themes are relayed from the point of view of Coriolanus. Unlike Katniss, who is focused on her survival and the survival of those she cares about, Coriolanus is determined to claw his way to the top by any means necessary. This makes the prequel feel even darker than the original series – because while Coriolanus’s actions are at times heroic or brave, his intentions are often less than noble.  

Donald Sutherland as President Snow

Clocking in at 517 pages, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” is an emotional, fast-paced dystopian novel that most readers of the original series will enjoy. But be warned – just because it is focused on the future President Snow and his life in the Capitol doesn’t mean it is a rosy tale.