Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Ambition will fuel him.
Competition will drive him.
But power has its price.

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-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 outcharm, 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.

So, here’s the thing: Despite the fact that I gave it a low rating, I’m not disappointed by this book, because I honestly didn’t expect it to be all that good in the first place. Then why did I read it, you might be wondering? Well, as someone who has been obsessed with the Hunger Games books and films since middle school, I sort of felt obligated to. Knowing that it was about President Snow, I didn’t go into it with high hopes… I would have much preferred a Finnick novel, a Haymitch novel, or a Johanna novel. President Snow… no thanks. I hate the guy, so why would I want to read about his privileged upbringing in the Capitol?

To be fair, this is NOT a Snow redemption book. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes made me feel ZERO pity for him… I think it says a lot that Suzanne Collins wrote Snow’s perspective in the third person rather than the first person. It sends a message that she doesn’t want us to empathize with him like we empathized with Katniss in the original trilogy. I’ve heard so many people complain about how this book is meant to make us feel bad for Snow, and as someone who has just read it, I can confidently tell you that that is NOT the case, and that Suzanne Collins did NOT write this book with a Snow redemption arc in mind.

Why DID she write this book then? Well… I really don’t know. Because the biggest flaw of A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is that it is extremely uneventful. Nothing of any importance happens. Throughout the book, we’re not shown anything that foreshadows the corrupt and power-hungry person Snow will eventually become. Sure, he’s privileged, ambitious, and somewhat self-serving, but despite that, he’s just an average guy. It’s hard to connect the normal, slightly morally-grey Coriolanus Snow portrayed in TBOSAS with the cruel, heartless President Snow from the original trilogy. It’s irritating because even though I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of a Snow prequel novel, I was still intrigued to see how he became such an evil dictator. But in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, I saw no such thing! The whole book takes place over one year (Snow’s 18th year, to be exact), so if you think you’re going to get a glimpse at Snow climbing his way up to presidency, you’re in for a big disappointment. There was no political intrigue at all. The “plot” just revolved around Snow’s boring life in the Capitol and his lackluster romance with Lucy Grey, the female tribute from District 12 in the 10th Annual Hunger Games.

Lucy Grey, fortunately, made the book worth reading. Even though I didn’t ship her with Snow, her songs were such a pleasure to read, and it was so fascinating to learn that SHE was the creator of the infamous Hanging Tree song. Lucy was a really interesting character to read about, and I wish that the story had been told from HER perspective, not Snow’s.

Don’t get me wrong, the Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is not a bad book… I don’t think anything written by Suzanne Collins could ever be BAD. The problem with this book is that it’s pointless and unnecessary. The was no reason for it to be written, and again, I would have rather read a book from the point of view of a character who had to go through hardships that Snow would never even be able to fathom… Finnick, Haymitch, and Johanna would have all been SPECTACULAR contenders. I would even support Suzanne Collins if she decided to pull a Stephanie Meyer and rewrite The Hunger Games in Peeta’s perspective! That would have been amazing! I just don’t understand why Collins chose to write about Snow, especially if she wasn’t even going to show us how he became a dictator.

Like I said, this book didn’t disappoint me, because after seeing so many negative reviews, I didn’t have very high expectations. Truth be told, I never had high expectations in the first place because… Well, it’s President Snow for crying out loud!

Even if this book had some enjoyable aspects, it doesn’t even begin to compare to the original trilogy. I’m glad I read it, because if I hadn’t, a part of me would always wonder if I was missing out on something great. And if you haven’t read this book yet, and you’re wondering the same thing, trust me, you are missing out on NOTHING.

In short, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is boring, bland, and, to put it bluntly, completely pointless. It adds nothing to the Hunger Games series, and if anything, it just makes me hate President Snow even more, because he wasted my time with his snooze-fest of a backstory!

I hope Suzanne Collins writes more prequel novels in the future, but can they PLEASE be from the perspectives of characters we actually care about??? Thanks.

two-and-a-half-stars | The Outlaw Urbanist

19 thoughts on “Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

  1. notesbyj says:

    Great review. I love your point about Collins writing it in the third person rather than first! Agree with everything you say and it is a very uneventful book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dani @ Literary Lion says:

    I felt the exact same about this read. Why was it written? I wish it would have focused more on the creation of the games and less on the romance subplot. I liked Lucy Gray before she became just a vehicle to advance Snow’s story. I really hated how gullible her character was made to seem near the end. I did like seeing how the famous song was written though!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. abookowlscorner says:

    It was so nice to read your thoughts on this, even if your opinion is pretty much the complete opposite of mine 😂 I absolutely LOVED this book and thought the politics of it were so intriguing! Still, I’d totally be down for a book from Finnick or Haymitch’s perspective, too 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Gemma says:

    For me one of the big things I took from this book and one of the reasons why I loved it was the ways in which you could see the games where on the edge that at least many of his schoolmates were questioning their existence and purpose and the dehumanization of the victims of the games and the way in which they were manipulated to keep them going and to make the games even more of a media event than ever before which is why I think it worked for me. I guess I saw a lot of real world relevance that I honestly didn’t even take from the original series.

    But I do think duel perspective would have been great! Maybe if she writes more we could see more of Lucy- or something from Tigris perspective as well 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Sabrina @ Notes From a Paper Plane Nomad says:

    Great review! From what I’ve seen this book seems pretty polarising. I’m so glad it doesn’t try to do a redemption arc, but it’s a shame it doesn’t really do a descent-into-villainy arc either (like for example Levana’s in ‘Fairest’ by Marissa Meyer). I actually agree with you on the Peeta POV concept – he was my favourite character, plus he was apart from Katniss for quite a bit in Book 3 anyway! (Though reading what he endured in the Capitol will probably be quite horrifying..)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. theworksofadreamer says:

    I personally did not mind the book, I liked the first three Hunger Games novels better though. I did like the fact that the book portrayed the people of the capital to have not always been so selfish, vain, and overall clueless. Also I think the author wrote this novel to show that a person does not have to be down right evil from the day he/she is born to become a dictator. Even though Snow was far from perfect, and pretty confused, he wasn’t what I would call evil. But he became evil over time, thanks to events that happened, his really confusing love for Lucy Gray, his overall confusion, and his yearn for being somebody that had status or power, to repair his family name.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Octavia @ Mermaid Reads says:

      I agree that Snow didn’t start off as downright evil! But that’s why I was so upset… in the book, we didn’t really get to see his descent into wickedness! By the end of the book, he’s pretty morally grey, but nowhere near as cruel as he was in the OG trilogy. That’s why it’s hard for me to connect the dots. I wish Collins had shown us how he became so evil.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. melbraxton says:

    Thanks so much for writing this review! This is a book I’m so intrigued by but having a hard time bringing to the top of my TBR. I love tension as a reader, something to keep me turning the page, so sad to hear this one didn’t offer the driving drama of the Hunger Games.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Octavia @ Mermaid Reads says:

      It definitely did not! There’s hardly any action or tension to fuel the plot, so it’s very different from the original trilogy. But I’m still glad I read it! If I hadn’t, I would always wonder if I was missing out on something great (spoiler alert: I wasn’t)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Isaac Dunlap says:

    I don’t think the book had to be pointless, since it could have been a convincing downfall story for Snow and show us the origin of the hunger games as they are in the original trilogy. But the use of romance to trigger Snow’s downfall reeks of Anakin Skywalker, and it simply fails to convince me as likely. So I agree the story didnt work.

    Liked by 1 person

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