‘Hunger Games’ prequel illuminates previously unknown Panem


Fans of the Hunger Games series were thrilled when author Suzanne Collins published a prequel to the popular trilogy in May. The book is titled The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and is set in the capital city of Panem, 64 years before the events of The Hunger Games. 

Panem is a country built on the ashes of a place once known as North America. It consists of 12 districts that are completely controlled by a city called the Capitol. Every year the Capitol forces the districts to each send one male and one female tribute to compete in the Hunger Games as punishment for a failed rebellion. These tributes, all ages 12 through 18, are trapped inside an arena to fight to the death on live TV. The last remaining tribute is declared the victor and is allowed to return to their district. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place in the Capitol during the 10th hunger games. It is not necessary to read the original series before beginning this book. 

The story follows 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow as he attempts to launch an illustrious career by mentoring the winning tribute of the games. He is the main antagonist of the Hunger Games trilogy, and this book gives insight into the early life of the character who will become such a villain. The book explores his journey as ambition drives him to overcome the financial obstacles that plague his once-wealthy family. Coriolanus works hard to maintain the image that his prominent family’s financial situation has not changed when, in reality, they are barely able to buy enough food and stay in their home. 

An impressive performance as a mentor in the games could earn him a financial prize that covers his college tuition. If he fails, it could mean a dreaded life in the poor parts of the Capitol. Much to Coriolanus’s dismay, he is assigned the female tribute from District 12. He is humiliated because it is widely known that the District 12 tributes are the least likely to win because they are usually underfed and weak. His future depends on the slim chance that he will propel his tribute to victory in the arena. 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes finally answers how the Hunger Games were created and what their true purpose is. Coriolanus discovers the answers to these questions during the course of the story. The book reveals that he had a significant role in transforming the games into the spectacle seen in the trilogy. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is surprisingly different from the Hunger Games series. It has a much darker tone and focuses on more complex philosophical and political issues, such as the importance of control and what happens without it. 

The action in the arena is not nearly as captivating because readers experience the games from Coriolanus’s perspective instead of living it through the first-person narrative of Hunger Games protagonist Katniss Everdeen. Unlike the other installments of the Hunger Games series, this book is written in the third person limited point of view, but readers can see Coriolanus’s thoughts. This perspective makes it possible to analyze his character as he manipulates others for his own gain and does whatever it takes to survive. 

Coriolanus’s witty and sarcastic thoughts in response to the world around him provide humorous moments in the book. Collins uses foreshadowing to build suspense and dread that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Tracking Coriolanus’s character development is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the story. 

The book is exceptionally entertaining and well written, although the plot is complicated at times. The focus is placed on a select few characters who develop as the story progresses, and numerous plot twists and high stakes story elements will keep readers absorbed in the book. Collins has delivered a compelling prequel to her popular and beloved Hunger Games trilogy. This highly anticipated book did not disappoint, and it is a worthy addition to the series. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a great read for fans of the Hunger Games, but any reader can find it entertaining.