Snow Lands on Top

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book cover | Wikipedia

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes book cover | Wikipedia

Olivia Downin, Managing Editor

“What was there to aspire to once wealth, fame, and power had been eliminated? Was the goal of survival further survival and nothing more?”

Everyone knows the beautiful but crazy love story of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark from Suzanne Collins’s epic novel The Hunger Games. Now, over 10 years later, Suzanne Collins has come out with the perfect prequel to this story, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

Recently on TikTok, there has been a #HungerGamesRenaissance. The four Hunger Games movies have been released on Netflix and are available to watch until March 30th. This has sparked an urgency to watch the movies.

This release of the movies comes right before the release of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes movie. Before you catch the flick, I highly recommend reading the book first.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (TBOSAS) is the story of the 10th Hunger Games. The country Panem is fresh out of a war and the capital prevailed and defeated the districts. Although this defeat came with a cost, parts of the capital are in ruins. The war has destroyed living areas in the capital, most noticeably the one where the then 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow lives. 

TBOSAS dives into details surrounding the life of young Coriolanus and what led him to hold such a position of power. 

For those of you who don’t know, The Hunger Games tells the story of 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen who is selected in a reaping to fight in a to-the-death match against 23 other teenagers. Coriolanus Snow, now 80 years old, is the infamous president of Panem who forced Katniss into the Hunger Games, not once, but twice, kidnapped her lover, and tortured her friends.

This dystopian society written by Suzanne Collins has sold over 100 million copies globally and spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. 

With this fame from the original trilogy, many fans have begged for a sequel, and WOW, how Collins delivered. 

This book opens with young Coriolanus releasing cabbage into boiling water for breakfast. Coriolanus, though fighting hard to hide it, is poor as scum. He lives with his Grandmother- Grandmaam, and cousin Tigirs. We the readers find out in the first paragraph that Mr. Snow is getting ready for the reaping ceremony of the 10th Hunger Games. It’s a stark contrast from the future president of Panem who antagonizes Katniss.

Snow will watch this ceremony at his academy in the Capitol while sipping on wine and feasting on meat prepared by Avox (tongueless servants) which is juxtaposed to the people in the districts who have to watch the ceremony in their town squares, hoping that they don’t get reaped for the games or hoping that their children will live to see another day. 

This prequel has everything a reader could ask for…romance, action, mystery, and connection to the original trilogy. 

Romance – “You’re mine and I’m yours. It’s written in the stars.”

Coriolanus falls for one Lucy Gray Baird, a 16-year-old girl from District 12. Coriolanus is assigned a tribute to a mentor, that being Lucy Gray. 

On one hand, I love this love story. Lucy Gray is going into the Hunger Games with a 4% chance of surviving. It is Coriolnuss’s job to do whatever he can to keep her alive. On the other hand, this love story is a little unsettling. No, there isn’t a drastic age difference, but the fact that Coriolanus is in a position of power over Lucy Gray makes me uneasy. 

In addition to this unsettling duo, there were some phrases in the book, said by Coriolanus that did not sit right with me. One of which is, “His girl. His… it was given that Lucy Gray belonged to him.” 

But other than this power difference and “ownership”, the love story is utterly compelling. We see how Snow starts off as harsh as a stone wall. He is bitter about his tribute selection and is only interested in winning the games with no regard for his tribute’s wellbeing. But as time goes on and Lucy Gray opens herself up to Snow, we see how he develops a fondness for her and will work to protect her. He even risks his life multiple times just to see her. 

Action – “Courage in battle was often necessary because of someone else’s poor planning.”

TBOSAS is chock-full of action; isn’t it a story about kids fighting to the death? But, not only is there action in the deadly battles, but suspense builds as Snow manipulates the rules of the game, foreshadowing his future reign of Panem. 

Young Snow is constantly looking for ways to get ahead, no matter what. We see how come ambitious choices he makes lead to action and disaster. 

As we see in the original trilogy, there are some rebel attacks, most noticeably in Mockingjay. In TBOSAS, the most noticeable rebel attack puts the lives of tributes and mentors in danger and led to a few fatalities. 

As we know, this is a story of kids fighting to the death, so there is bound to be action. But, what we don’t expect is fighting that will take place outside of the arena. This is not only a competition between the kids to live, but this is also a fight between the mentors to win a scholarship to university. It’s hard not to see the parallels to the competition teens face as they compete for college and careers. 

Mystery – “What are lies but attempts to conceal some sort of weakness?”

With a book that is 500+ pages long there is bound to be multiple literary aspects. One of which being mystery.

Snow, as we know in the original trilogy is a very sneaky and cunning person. Constantly trying to find shortcuts to get ahead. The biggest one being poisoning allies who get too close to him, then proving it isn’t poison by drinking from the same cup. He can do this because he drinks blood, which masks the poison. 

As a young adult, Snow was just as cunning. Like a snake, he slithers into the game maker’s lair and hacks the system of the 10th Hunger Games so he could get ahead and have a better chance of Lucy Gray winning. 

Collins does not rush these deceitful scenes, she carefully takes her time to lay Easter Eggs to the reader. 

Connection – “There is a point to everything or nothing at all, depending on your worldview.”

I, and many other readers, have found that there are many meaningful connections to the original trilogy.

One of which, and probably my favorite is the connection of the lake Katniss learned to swim in. We soon find out, reading TBOSAS, that this same lake is where Lucy Gray travels with her family and spends days there. 

Another connection is the well-known song Katniss sings in Mockingjay– The Hanging Tree. When reading the prequel we find out the origins of this song, and who it is about. It was utterly shocking to see how everything relates and how the roots of District 12 are formed. 

The katniss plant, an arrowhead-type plant, is constantly being brought up in this prequel. It is repeated how Snow loves katniss. This is beautiful irony, knowing what happens between Katniss and Snow in Mockingjay- knowing Katniss is the reason for Snow’s death. 

“Good-bye, District Twelve. Good-bye, hanging tree and Hunger Games and Mayor Lipp. Someday something will kill me, but it won’t be you.” 

After finishing this book a rush of emotions came over me. I was astounded by the way Suzanne Collins managed to move me not once with The Hunger Games, but a second time with The Ballad of Songbrids and Snakes. 

I highly recommend reading this book before the movie comes out in November 2023. 

Have fun reading, and may the odds be ever in your favor.