REVIEW: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Publisher: Scholastic
Release date: May 19th, 2020
Page count: 540
Genre: Fantasy / Dystopian

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined – every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Listen, usually I have trouble with deciding how I’ll start my reviews. This time, I think the best way is telling you that if you have already read this book and want to know my full and very spoilery opinion, you can find it on my Goodreads. I usually don’t have the need to do two versions of my reviews (usually just the spoiler-free one is enough), but this time I had the aching need to get my thoughts out there, all of them. So there’s that (warning: it’s a long ass review with over 1k words… just like this one).

However, if you haven’t read this book yet and wish to read my spoiler-free, most civilized version of the review, keep on reading.

“Nothing you can take from me was ever worth keeping.”

TBOSAS take us into the life of Coriolanus Snow, a young Capitol citizen who’s biggest wish is to have a better future for himself and his family: his Grandma’am and his cousin Tigris (little side note: I didn’t know he and Tigris were cousins?? was it mentioned in the main trilogy and I don’t remember? oh well). He has the chance to give some honor back to the Snow name when he’s chosen as a mentor for the 10th Hunger Games, and his tribute is none other than Lucy Gray Baird, a very quirky girl who’s the very definition of a free spirit but doesn’t seem to have many chances to be the winner.

Suzanne Collins takes us into a whole new version of Panem, where the war is still fresh in everyone’s minds, and she made an incredible work by showing how the Dark Days affected everyone in Panem differently, as well as the huge change in the country’s politics. We get to see very graphical scenes that showcase the horrors of the war and the lengths people went just to get a little food. Not only that, but we see it on the tributes: they are very resentful of the system, full of hate because of all the poverty they had to endure. But the people in the districts are not the only ones suffering: some people in the Capitol, like Coriolanus himself, are very far from being rich, and even when the Capitol has privileges comparing to the districts, it’s far from the fancy and wealthy Capitol we saw in the main trilogy. That said, TBOSAS has a very realistic portrayal of a jump back into the past of this world.

“Well, as they said, it’s not over until the mockingjay sings.”

The Games were very different from what we see in THG. You quickly notice that many things haven’t been invented yet, and some are being tested (like the malfunctioning drones). Students from the Capitol are the mentors instead of former victors, and this is the very year where sponsors join the games and the gambling on who might win starts. Also, there’s only one mentor per tribute (hence why Coriolanus only mentors Lucy and not both District 12 tributes). While I thought the pre-game scenes were very interesting, dramatic and entertaining, the Games itself did not meet my expectations. Barely anything interesting happened and Lucy didn’t have much of an appearance. So, the Catching Fire games are still my favorite.

This book has a big cast of characters, and I got to connect with them easily. Coriolanus surprised me positively. I thought I was going to find a bitter and ambitious boy in this book, but he was sweet, friendly, kind and caring with his loved ones. Side characters like Tigris, the Grandma’am and Sejanus added to Coriolanus’ development and brought a human and loving side of him even more than Lucy did. Even when he wasn’t trying to stop the Capitol’s horrible doings, he didn’t like people to suffer. And yes, he even had his awkward swoony moments. So here I was, wondering what could possibly have brought him to become the tyrant dictator he end up being.

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

Lucy Gray was a free spirit, a lover of music, a definitely capable of putting on a show. She was caring and selfless, also. I was mesmerized by her as everyone in the book apparently was. I love the scenes featuring Lucy and her little found family, the Covey Bairds (well, they’re cousins… but they have this found family vibe so yeah). They brought the music and liveliness to this book, even in such a gloomy setting as District 12 is. I loved most of her relationship with Coriolanus, except for the parts where he called her his belonging (which she made clear in a song she was not, fortunately).

The pacing of this book was just amazing during the first two parts out of three. I just couldn’t stop reading, and here’s when I repeat that the pre-game scenes were the best. It was one surprise after the other, and I couldn’t stop reading and making theories in my head. Unfortunately, that ended when the Part III came, and the book got slower and just couldn’t quite grab my interest. Honestly, I thought I was going to give this book 5 stars until I reached the 60% mark, but things went downhill from there, and the ending was not satisfactory at all. It was unrealistic, the events didn’t make sense and the protagonists went wildly out of character. I’m sad to say that was a big disappointment.

If the main purpose of this book was trying to make us understand why Snow became a tyrant, they I don’t think it did, because I didn’t found a good enough reason as to why that happened. However, you get to have a better understanding of many things from this world and discover the origins of important elements from the main trilogy, which I really enjoyed and I think those that enjoyed the main trilogy will as well. After reading this book I can only hope that Suzanne Collins doesn’t stop here so hopefully we get to see Haymitch, Johanna, Finnick or Mags’ games in the future.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Have you read this book or the main trilogy? What are your thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments!

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15 thoughts on “REVIEW: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins”

  1. Great review Cielo! I really love the original trilogy and I’m not sure if I’m going to read this book or not yet


  2. Great review Cielo, I loved the original trilogy and put this on my TBR before it was released or really any details had come out about it. I’ll probably read it to get more color on Panem. Sad the end didn’t live up to the first 60% of the book.
    ♥ Mae


  3. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to read this one as I only read the others because they were hyped and I had nothing better to do. They were quick and decent but not faves. I’ve been hearing it’s not as good as the others but haven’t really heard why until this review. Still undecided whether I’ll read it or not but it’s interesting to hear your thoughts!


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