⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/ 5 stars
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.
My Thoughts: Spoilers Ahead
Here's what I thought was gonna happen when I read this book: I would feel sympathy for President Snow and become a fan.
If you're thinking you're gonna start liking this villain, worry no more. It's not gonna happen. I am happy to report Suzanne Collins did not try and sway us in his favor. Instead we got inside the mind of a sociopath politician in the making.
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes follows Snow as a mentor for the 10th Annual Hunger Games. His tribute is Lucy Gray from District 12. Lucy Gray is a fantastic character. At first I thought she was off her rocker, as she slid a snake down the Mayor's daughter's dress after being called as Tribute. Then she followed with a song and a dance on stage after the Mayor punched her in the face. Now of course we're inside Snow's head as we witness this and he sees her at first as mad and dangerous. I too at first thought, oh she cray! But it turns out she knew how to play the game and earned favoritism from the onlookers.
OH Possible Snake Trigger Warning: Okay so I know the word, Snake is in the title of the book BUT I didn't realize how much snakes would be a part in this book. It was a bit unnerving reading about them so vividly. So if you have an aversion to them, read with caution.
Okay so back to the story: Lucy Gray can sing and knows how to entertain, and it turns out that works in Snow's favor. So here's the history on Snow's family.
Snow's family was once wealthy and respected in the Capitol, but they had all their money invested in District 13 and when it was blown to bits their money went down with it. So we find a poor, starving, Snow living with his grandma and cousin, in the Capitol trying to hide the fact his family is destitute.
His professor at the Academy he attends wrangled a way for him to be a mentor for the Hunger Games. His future lies in the hands of his mentor ship. If he can give an impressive performance as a mentor he will win money to help pay for his tuition at University.
Snow finds an enemy in the Capitol, the Dean from the Academy, the inventor of the Hunger Games, is set to making things miserable for him and possibly taking away his spot at Uni because of some personal vendetta he holds against Snow's now deceased father.
The gamemaker, who is an evil woman by the name of Dr. Gaul, is truly the evil villain in this story and unfortunately mentors Snow into the man he becomes in The Hunger Games we know with Katniss.
As I was reading this book I wondered about Lucy Gray and her part in his story. In the beginning I wondered if she was the reason what Snow becomes in the future, a jilted love affair turning his heart to stone. But what we witness instead is Snow sliding down the slippery slope of sociopath. In the end things do not go well for Lucy, although it's not clear what happens to her as we are left with a song sung earlier in the book of a character with the same name and her unknown whereabouts. Never did I think Lucy would "save" Snow but man, I was hoping for a better future for that girl.
Snow ends up killing a few people in this story and one of them was Sejanus Plinth. Well maybe not with his hands but he does something far worse to Sejanus.
Sejanus' family left District 2 when they became wealthy and moved to the Capitol. Sejanus has a heart of gold and I found myself rooting for him. He also has one of the best monologues in the book. I'll put it here.
On page 168: "That's our right," Dr. Gaul countered.
"No, it isn't! I don't care what you say. You've no right to starve people, to punish them for no reason. No right to take away their life and freedom. Those are things everyone is born with, and their not yours for the taking. Winning a war doesn't give you that right. Having more weapons doesn't give you that right. Being from the Capitol doesn't give you that right. Nothing does."
I found great meaning with this quote as a Hispanic woman and it might mean differently to you. And that's okay.
What Suzanne Collins shows us in these books, is that humans can be despicable. Vial even. Even showing us we think we're superior to others because of where we're born. In the end we're all the same; human.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I hope you all will too. Please leave me a comment on your thoughts. I'd love to hear them.