The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes — Book Review

The+Ballad+of+Songbirds+and+Snakes+%E2%80%94+Book+Review

By — Njeri Jackson

(Be warned of spoilers!)

One of my many goals during quarantine was to read a bunch of books that were piling up on my reading list, and I decided I might as well start on the Hunger Games. I have been hearing about this series for years now and I even read the first few pages to pick if I wanted to be in the book club for it, but I had never actually wanted to read it because I wasn’t really interested. It wasn’t really my style of book, but nevertheless, I began. I was not disappointed. The main three books: The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay were all excellent reads. The Hunger Games had me on the edge of my seat, Catching Fire had me binge reading, and Mockingjay made me shed way too many tears, so when I found out that there was a fourth book I was completely set on reading it. The book was called The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and upon finishing it I have to say I have some thoughts about the book.

Summary

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the backstory of the main antagonist, President Snow, in the original Hunger Games series. The novel is centered around the tenth Hunger Games where the Capitol Gamemakers are determined to draw more attention to the event. One of these ways was to recruit Capitol mentors, who were children at the prestigious Academy in the Capitol. Young Corionlanus Snow (President Snow) was one of these mentors selected for the project. Each mentor was assigned a tribute from the 12 districts and Snow was paired with the female tribute from district 12, Lucy Gray Baird. The story follows the events leading up to the Games, the actual Games, and what follows afterwards.

My Thoughts

As with every Hunger Games book I’ve read, I was quite bored at the start of the book and it took me a while to actually become hooked. The start of the book is really slow and it doesn’t get very interesting until after Baird and Snow’s relationship advances probably because the book is largely centered around just Snow and he strikes me as a rather independent character so it feels like he doesn’t share a genuine connection with many characters, and the ones that he does aren’t usually there where he is. 

The storyline was a bit disappointing to me because I felt like most things that happened I could predict already and the things that I didn’t see coming were just really twisted or completely random. The Baird and Snow relationship was predictable from the start as well as the disastrous end. The snakes being sent into the arena were, again, predictable and many more cases throughout the story. The only thing that surprised me was when he became a Peacekeeper, and the murdering of the mayor’s daughter.

I think it was pretty difficult to really emphasize and understand most of the characters in the book simply because of people’s natural, humane tendencies as well as their position in society. Nearly all the characters were from the Capitol and when comparing their problems to the problems in the district, where he ended up for part of the book, it made me disdain them more. It just seemed like the districts had it so much more and even through the main character’s deep love of keeping control to maintain order, he just lets them suffer and deems that as order when it’s not. 

Snow is an incredibly problematic character, he thinks and does some messed up things without even realizing it, which makes the reader dislike him even more. When the author brought in Baird’s life in the story and how she and her convoy were struggling as well as his relationship with Sejanus, it was a surefire way for Snow to change what he thought since he was apparently in love with her, but he didn’t which was quite upsetting. 

The entire story somehow distorted supposed “love” between Baird and Snow and it was quite jacked up to me. It was pretty appropriate with the twisted ending where they were literally hunting each other in the forest. Baird tries to attack Snow in an incredibly messed up ending to their relationship when she realizes that Snow would consider killing her because she knows about the murder he committed of the mayor’s daughter, and that she is the last piece of evidence againest him. When she attacks him in a trap with a snake he goes and tries to shoot her. The reader never gets to find out what happened to her and the last thing that is heard from her is a song being echoed by the Mockingjays called “the Hanging Tree” which coincidentally is the song that Katniss learned from her dad. The entire situation gave me chills and their relationship before wasn’t much better. It seemed like they were just stuck together and had some type of logical “love” rather than real love. 

Sejanus, the largest side character besides Baird, was one of the better characters for sure. Not everything he did was that wise, but the way he was was very admirable. He gave relief to the somewhat annoying Capitol people in the story. He was gullible though and Snow ended up being the one that caused him to die when he secretly recorded his rebel plans with a jabberjay. It was just another analogy to the overwhelming power of the capitol over the districts.

The whole set-up of the games was just messed up to be honest. When learning about the behind the scenes of everything and what the Capitol people were thinking it kind of disgusted me because it all just felt so wrong. I was in the middle of the argument between the districts and the Capitol because I agreed and disagreed with many of their arguments, but the fact that they are just okay with killing innocent children because of their “mistakes” in order to punish them is wrong on so many levels. Even though the districts aren’t much better, they starved the people in the Capitol during the war that they started causing the deaths of some of the Capitol’s children. Both sides are just messed up in so many ways and it’s hard to figure out who is actually good and what side is bad is right because they both do, and did jacked up things.

Final Verdict

Overall I would recommend reading this book if you like action and dystopian. While the characters and events that happened in the book were somewhat not the best, I think that it gives a different viewpoint which is extremely important. If I had to give a rating of the book I’d give it a 3.5 out of 5 just because the other books in the original were way better than this one.