In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Suzanne Collins peels back history to share the story of Coriolanus Snow, a much younger version of President Snow whom we met in the Hunger Games trilogy. Here we see an 18-year-old young man still in school, his family on the brink of homelessness, and the Hunger Games still in its infancy but evolving. We meet an innocent and righteous Snow, ambitious and trying to make his mark as a mentor for the 10th edition of the Hunger Games, and we watch a slow transformation into the devious leader we come to know in the later books. He is ruled by one message passed down from his family, “Snow lands on top.”
In the original trilogy, Snow was portrayed as the evil dictator with little warmth or compassion to his character, but in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes readers are given a unique opportunity to glimpse into the defining circumstances that shaped him. We see the events and decisions that lead him to veer away from the casual Coryo, and toward the Machiavellian leader President Snow. In this journey we see Snow interact with family, overcome immense hurdles, fall in love, betray and be betrayed, and even empathize at times with those from the districts. We see him as human, traversing the highs and lows of life, succeeding at times and failing at others. We are a witness to the moments that define him.
I loved the layers this story created to Snow, to Panem, and to the overall fabric of this world created by Suzanne Collins. She gives us a deeply juxtaposed society, and then makes the opposites collide and then yet again shows us what happens after impact. The result is a story that explores poverty vs. wealth, freedom vs. slavery, decision vs. consequence, and life vs. death.
Wow. I really missed the emersion into Suzanne Collins’ masterful storytelling and worldbuilding, and this was a delightful dip back into that world. I hope she continues to fill in the gaps of time between the story we knew before and the story she told in this installment. I have a feeling there is still a whole lot of story left to tell.