A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

“You’ve no right to starve people, to punish them for no reason. No right to take away their life and freedom. Those are things everyone is born with, and they’re not yours for the taking.

*Warning* Spoilers Ahead

The Hunger Games is what originally got me into dystopian novels, so I was thrilled to hear that there was a prequel coming out about President Snow. I can understand why some people didn’t love this book, but I adored it and gave it 5 stars. The last time I read the trilogy was a year ago, so I might forget something that happened in it and I missed some references A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to the trilogy.

I was thrilled to be brought back to Panem and to see the world in the early stages after the war. The Hunger Games was extremely different between this book and the trilogy and it was fascinating (and horrifying) to see how it changed. The tributes are treated like animals and are starved while they are in the Capitol and they get no reward for winning. The Hunger Games as we knew it was an extravagant event, which was not what it always looked like. We even saw the truth behind who started the Games and that revelation made me like Highbottom and hate Snow so much more.

The only problem I had with this book is that I felt like Suzanne Collins was trying to make me feel sympathy for Snow in the beginning. However, as the book went on, we saw him be possessive (by calling Lucy Gray “his” and getting jealous easily), shooting/hating mockingjays for no reason, indirectly killing Sejanus, trying to murder Lucy Gray, and so much more. Looking back, I can see all of his red flags, but one of the moments where I saw him for who he is, is when he immediately decided to turn his back on Lucy Gray. Right when he saw the guns, he thought that he didn’t have to be with her anymore. She was just his backup plan. Then, for someone he claims to love, he turned on her so quickly. She had him get bit by a snake that wasn’t poisonous while he tried to murder her. I hate Snow, but A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was an amazing villain origin story.

Lucy Gray and Sejanus were great characters and I’m still upset about their fates. Lucy Gray brought color into the story and was such a unique character. She is passionate and cunning at the same time. It was obvious from the beginning that she would win the Hunger Games, but I was still worried for her and was always rooting for her to be the victor. Sejanus stood by his morals despite who his family was or what others said and I loved that about him! I knew something bad was going to happen to him but doesn’t make it easy to read.

Let’s talk about the ending because I didn’t see any of that coming. I knew that things didn’t work out between Lucy Gray and Snow because of the trilogy, but I didn’t think that they would end on that note. I’m so glad that someone saw Snow for who he truly is and punished him for it. Snow attempting to murder Lucy Gray was psychotic, but I expected nothing less from him. Then, he aligns himself with Dr. Gaul after he saw firsthand how crazy she is and murders the president. So much insane stuff happened within the last 30 pages and it was unexpected, to say the least.

The last thing I wanted to talk about was my theory. I want to believe that Lucy Gray survived, returned to District 12, and eventually became the grandmother to Katniss. She would have been about 80 during The Hunger Games, which makes her the perfect age to be a grandmother. Lucy Gray is the creator of “The Hanging Tree” (it was fascinating to learn the true meaning behind the song) and mentions katniss multiple times. It could have been a coincidence, but Suzanne Collins could have had her say something else instead of the plant that Katniss Everdeen is named after. It seems like too big of a thing to just be marked as a coincidence. Believing this makes me feel much better about how her story was left off.

Overall, A Ballad of Songbird and Snakes was a great villain origin story and prequel. Now, I want to reread the series (mostly to remember and understand the references), but I have so many other things to read… I’m looking forward to the movie, especially since the team behind the original movies are coming back to create this movie!

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