Tuesday, December 29, 2020

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

  The Balldad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author:  Suzanne Collins
Publication Information:  Scholastic Press. 2020. 528 pages.
ISBN:  1338635174 / 978-1338635171

Book Source:  I read this because it is a Hunger Games book!

Opening Sentence:  "Coriolanus released the fistful of cabbage into the pot of boiling water and swore that one day it would never pass his lips again."

Favorite Quote:  "I think there's a natural goodness built into human beings. You know when you've stepped across the line into evil, and it's your life's challenge to try and stay on the right side of that line."

It's been many years since I read the three books or watched the movies in The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. Returning to the world of the Capital and the districts is a walk back in time. I am glad for the distance because of the character of President Snow in the series. If read close together, I don't think I could see past his atrocities to see his character as a young man named Coriolanus Snow.

Coriolanus! What a name! How do you pronounce that? In a nod to the original stories, the book explains that katniss is a type of swamp potato. But Coriolanus! Of course, it begs research. So, I found a reference. I don't know if that's the author's source, but it does seem to relate. Coriolanus is the name of a early 1600s tragedy by William Shakespeare. Giaus Marcus Coriolanus was a 5 century BC Roman general; it is disputed whether he is a historical or legendary figure. He was decorated for valor but later fled to exile because his proposals were deemed too harsh. He then returned to try and conquer the Roman capital. What happened after is not clear. I see similarities. I would love to know if this is the author's inspiration.

Regardless, this is Coriolanus's story as he looks for his chance not only to get ahead but to redeem his family name. The odds are definitely not in his favor. He gets the chance to be a mentor in the tenth annual Hunger Games, but his assigned tribute is the presumably weakest one of the lot - a female from District 12. What to do? How to not just survive but thrive?

This book is the journey of how a young man becomes President Snow, or at least puts himself on that path. Having read the original series, I know how this turns out before I start reading. Coriolanus Snow will survive. He will even thrive. If President Snow is anything to judge by, Coriolanus as a young man will do whatever it takes as long as it suits his purposes.

Yet, somehow, the book manages to set up a sympathetic character at the beginning. A poor young man looking for a break and look to make his family name proud.  Watching him make decision after decision to get himself ahead does not stop me from hoping that the next one will be different. I finish the book still hoping that somehow it will have a different outcome than the one already written years ago. Silly but entertaining to read.

That being said, the female lead in this book - Lucy Gray - is about as uninteresting as her name. Oddly, it is the most plain of all the names in the book. She is definitely set up to be unique, different, and quirky. Unfortunately, for the most part, it crosses the boundary into uninterestingly odd. The ending, of course, implies that her story may continue, but I don't know that I care to follow along.

All that aside, sequels, prequels, and accompaniment stories rarely ever captivate as much as the original. That is certainly true of this one. It does not capture the uniqueness or the intensity of The Hunger Games. Am I glad I read it? Yes. Will I likely follow along? Yes, for the story and for the trip down memory lane. Will it have the same impact as the original? No.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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