BOOK REVIEW – The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

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I read this entire book without realizing it was about THE President Snow from the original Hunger Games series.

Yep.

In my defense, this was mostly due to me miscalculating the time between when this book was set and when the story that unfolds in the Hunger Games trilogy takes place. For some reason I had added it up strangely in my mind and I didn’t think the main character in this book would still be president, or possibly even still alive by the time Katniss and Peeta went into the arena for the first time (I was adding 18+75 instead of 18+64 if you must know.) so I reasoned with myself that perhaps he was his father or some other relative. I acknowledged he was likely related to President Snow, but I didn’t clue in that it was the same person.

The other reason I didn’t make the connection is that I didn’t remember ever having heard/read that name before. Coriolanus. I hate it so much. It must have been mentioned in the original books of course, I just don’t recall reading it before.

Now, on to the book itself. I was really into it for the first 3/4 or so. It was an interesting kind of experience though, because Coryo (as his friends and family call him, and how I will refer to him going forward because I really can’t stand that name) is mostly unlikable yet intriguing in a complicated way. It’s so hard to determine whether he’s a good guy or a bad guy for much of the story. He’s a selfish, manipulative, arrogant person but there is something oddly interesting about how he talks to people and how he steers circumstances and spins things in his favor. It reminded me a bit of Peeta (don’t hate me!) and how he instantly started playing the crowd and charming them once he got picked for the games. Peeta’s natural instinct was to spin a tale and play a character that would win over the Capitol crowd, and in this book Coryo is constantly doing basically the same thing and there is something very fun about seeing that mindset in action. I do have a bit of a weakness for strategic people, and like him or not, future President Snow is definitely strategic.

I really enjoyed the female lead, Lucy Gray Baird, quite a lot. For the most part. The later part of the book I feel like she lost that spark that had me so intrigued by her in the beginning. She became less of a fully thought out character and more like a prop, in my opinion. Oh, and in my head she sounded like a more breathy version of Dolly Parton when she spoke and that made all her lines in the first half of the book really entertaining to me. I didn’t expect her story to unfold the way it did though and I was pretty disappointed.

I found it very interesting, and uncomfortable, the contrast between how the Capitol values its own citizens compared to the tributes from the districts. They literally treat them like, or worse than, animals and it’s quite disturbing. It was also really eye opening to experience the early on version of the games, which were of course very different from what we know they ended up being years later.

But part way through the story, I kind of lost interest and as it started getting closer to the end I just wanted to be done. Coryo got harder and harder to have any sympathy for whatsoever and his constant whining and the way he kept getting offended by how he chose to interpret other characters words and actions just became tiresome.

While I read, I typically take notes and jot down all my predictions as I go and I have to admit I was wrong about every single thing that I guessed. Which is both good and bad in my opinion. I think if a book is too predictable then obviously that can diminish the enjoyment for the reader quite a bit. But on the other hand, there is something to be said about a story that dropped clues and scatters hints throughout and allows the reader to piece it together as they read. There were several times in this book where I felt like the author was dropping hints about something and then it just never led anywhere. I think I expected more twists or more small conflicts where a character misunderstood the intentions of another but instead it played out more like everything he assumed ended up being true and I just found that really annoying.

(You can purchase The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes HERE. Please note that this is an affiliate link and if you purchase through it I could earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps me to keep making improvements to this blog and I appreciate your support so much.)

***SPOILERS TO FOLLOW*** ***TURN BACK NOW TO AVOID SPOILERS***

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Seriously, LAST warning!

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Right around the time that Coryo got sent to 12 to be a Peacekeeper is when I was just OVER it. I couldn’t deal with his whining when he was being handed a pretty sweet deal. All of his immediate major problems were basically eliminated and he couldn’t stop complaining and I just had no patience left for it any more. I did however sort of appreciate watching his rapid downward spiral towards becoming completely irredeemable. By the end of the book he is a monster and he still thinks he’s the hero.

Other thoughts I had about the events that happened in the book:

Ok, am I crazy or was it strongly implied that the bombs/explosions in the arena were planted and that Gaius was killed by Gaul in order to further rile up the Capitol and make an excuse for retaliation?

Also, WHAT did Reaper have planned for those bodies? It seemed like he had a plan, but he died before he was able to do what he had intended to do by lining/arranging all the bodies up like that. I thought perhaps he was just creating shrine. Sort of a “Look What You’ve Done” message to the Capitol, with the lined up dead kids. But a part of me suspected there was a bigger plan. It just seemed like a lot of wasted effort for nothing.

It was really interesting to me to see how low-tech and boring the early games were. Just spectators sitting around watching an empty arena for days. I can almost understand why the gamemakers were so intent on making it more interesting somehow.

I found it really annoying that Coryo assumed Lucy Gray was in love with him…and she actually was. I don’t know. I was just hoping for there to be some sort of twist where she was just manipulating him in order to win the games and I was very disappointed when she actually returned his affections.

It also amused me how much the Capitol citizens lack common sense. Yes, don’t feed the kids you expect to have fight to the death before you send them into the arena. That should make for an interesting show.

Idiots.

/END SPOILERS

Alright, well that is my review on this book. If I had to rate it out of 5 stars I’d give it a 3.5 only because it didn’t hold my interest until the end.

Let me know if you’ve read this yet. I’d love to know what you thought of it if you have. Does knowing that it’s about President Snow turn you off of reading it? Or did you, like me, not even realize he was the star of this story?

6 comments

  1. Great review! Itโ€™s so funny that you managed to read this without knowing it was about President Snow ๐Ÿ˜ But I think thatโ€™s actually a fascinating perspective! Since I knew who he was from page one, I always had a bit of a disconnect since I knew how villainous he would becomeโ€ฆ And maybe thatโ€™s also why I wasnโ€™t that surprised by the ending. Personally, though, I loved this book! I found all the politics and the development of the games fascinating. Like you said, you kind of get why the gamemakers wanted to make them more exciting, and itโ€™s kind of creepy how you find yourself relating to some of their decisionsโ€ฆ

    • Thank you! I’m still laughing at myself for not really connecting those dots and realizing it was him, but I do think it made the experience unique compared to if I had gone into it knowing exactly who he was. I kept kind of hoping he might redeem himself by the end, while also being pretty sure he wouldn’t but I wasn’t 100% sure and the end of the book definitely was a bit more shocking because of it. I agree with you also about it being creepy to relate to the gamemakers decisions, or at least to kind of get where they’re coming from!

  2. Great review! I did know that this was about President Snow. I’m curious how knowing vs not knowing would affect our appreciation of the story. Sorry that the ending a was a bit of a let down.

    • Hey thanks for the comment! I wonder the same thing, regarding knowing vs not knowing and how it affects the experience. I feel like it set me up to be more disappointed because ultimately with a villain origin story you’re typically hoping for redemption or at least to understand them better and I don’t feel like I got either of those with this story at all. I think going into it knowing exactly who he is and who he becomes keeps your expectations right where they should be.
      I feel like the ending would have been a lot better too if I hadn’t just been SO sick of his self pitying/self congratulatory attitude by then.

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