The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Study Guide

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes marks the first entry in the Hunger Games series in nearly a decade. It is a prequel to the first Hunger Games novel and tells the story of the 10th Hunger Games. The plot follows Coriolanus Snow (who would later become the ruler of Panem) as he mentors a young girl from District 12 for the upcoming Hunger Games, all so that he can raise his family out of poverty and restore its former glory.

For this new entry in the Hunger Games universe, author Suzanne Collins shifted much of the focus of her writing, both geographically and intellectually. While the original Hunger Games trilogy emphasizes the struggles of Panem's Districts, The Ballad emphasizes life in the oppressive, once-opulent Capitol. This prequel does not entirely abandon the earlier books' emphasis on themes such as savagery within civilization and the arbitrary nature of power; instead, it plays up the ways that the rule of law and the idea of a social contract can be twisted into immoral constructs, exploring a new direction while preserving the trilogy's combination of dystopian violence and teen romance.

Despite the tremendous publicity surrounding the book's release, it received only moderately positive reviews. The Telegraph, for example, wrote in a review for the book wrote that Collins was "fathoms out of her depth" and that said that it is "not the most promising opening." The Guardian thought the book was much better, asserting it was typical Suzanne Collins fare: "sleek" and exceptionally exciting, not least because of its action.

Critics were also divided in terms of the allure and complexity of young Coriolanus or "Coryo" Snow. Analisa Quinn of NPR described the central character of The Ballad as a "flat, wily sociopath," noting further that Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist of the original Hunger Games trilogy, was superior in her "contradictions" and moral qualms. In contrast, Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly argued that Katniss emerged as a "well-intentioned sap" by the end of her trilogy and that there were many intriguing elements to be found in The Ballad, including Coryo's "elitist" nature and the book's own dark sense of humor.

At least as of this writing (spring of 2022), The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is slated for film adaptation. Production is set to begin in 2022, and the movie itself will most likely appear in 2023 or 2024. Francis Lawrence has been linked to the project as a director, yet few other details have emerged.