The Ballad of Birds and Snakes: The Hunger Games Returns

Suzanne Collins released her newest novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, earlier this year as a prequel to her popular dystopian series, The Hunger Games. It follows Coriolanus Snow as he struggles through the 10th Hunger Games and its aftermath. (Photo courtesy of Savannah Sinor).

Almost 70 years before the events of the bestselling series, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes takes place. 

What is The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes about?

During the novel, Snow is far from the menacing president that readers have come to know. Instead, he is a poor teenager trying to figure out how he is going to afford college. He lives in a penthouse that he can barely sustain with his grandmother, affectionately dubbed the Grandma’am, and his cousin, Tigris. Together, they try and make ends meet and keep up appearances, but they do not always succeed. 

This new information about President Snow humanizes him and helps readers to see him as Coriolanus, or Coryo for short, and not what he will become. 

At 18, Coriolanus is in his final year at the Academy, a high school for the children of power citizens of the Capitol. Students must prepare for the final project, mentoring in the Hunger Games. He, along with 23 of his classmates, are tasked with mentoring his tribute, while improving the games. 

This assignment is more than just a final project for Coriolanus because it comes with a monetary prize that could pay for his tuition to the University. The only catch is that to get the money, his tribute needs to win. This task becomes even more problematic when he is assigned the female district 12 tribute, Lucy Gray Baird.  

She is less of a hindrance than Coriolanus thought at the beginning. She makes a spectacular entrance at her reaping by belting out a song. Together they establish what they hope is a winning strategy for the 10th Hunger Games. 

As they prepare for the arena, the readers start to notice how the Hunger Games used to work. There are no uniforms, stylists, training days, living quarters, food allowances, separate arenas, and several other things readers have come to expect with the Hunger Games. There are still some similarities, though, such as the inclusion of mentors, mutts, betting, sponsor gifts, and interviews.


The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes gives readers the answers to questions they never even thought to ask. It explains the history of Coriolanus Snow, Tigris, the games, the peacekeepers, multiple songs, and other characters that show up later in the series. 

These explanations and the other twists and turns of the plot come together to form a cohesive story. This book fills a void that was left by the original Hunger Games trilogy, but it also leaves readers with additional questions. The way Collins ends this novel leaves it open for a sequel.

With a possible sequel or movie adaptation on the way, this book is receiving a lot of hype from both new fans and ones from the original trilogy. 

A good part of why fans love this book so much is the music. Throughout the story, Lucy Gray sings numerous songs. They range from lighthearted and upbeat to sad and soulful. Each one adds more emotion to the book and explains her thought process.

Even if the songs weren’t part of the story, this novel would still be emotional. There is a feeling of uncertainty throughout the story because readers know something has to happen to  Coriolanus to make him like he is in the Hunger Games. 

Final thoughts

The suspense and songs both help to make The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes something to remember, but what pushes it over the edge is watching  Coriolanus descend into darkness. Seeing his transformation from someone compassionate and kind to selfish and cruel is remarkable. Collins outdid herself by creating such a natural transition into the person fans have come to know as President Snow. 

The intriguing plotlines, emotional songs, and intense characters create a spectacular novel. Everything about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is wonderful and more people should read it.


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