There are some stories we didn't realise we needed to know until we've read them.
While we all certainly wanted more from Suzanne Collins, and from the world of The Hunger Games, I doubt many of us knew how greatly we needed to know the story of President Snow.
Well written, beautifully conceived, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a fascinating companion to the well explored world of The Hunger Games.
Before this novel there was no way to even guess at how deep Snow's connection to the Hunger Games ran, and while we all guessed at why he was so intrigued by Katniss Everdeen the true story is both eye opening and a slap to the face.
While this book answers question we didn't even know we had for this universe it also creates entirely new ones; making us hopeful for further installments into this world pre-Katniss.
'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 out-charm, 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 favour 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.'
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes opens our eyes to the reality of living in the seemingly perfect capitol and gifts us a new insight into the districts and the lives of it's hard done by occupants. While we have no idea what to expect of Snow's up-bringing going in, the difficult, pained existence in which he and his family fight for survival is a shock that takes a few chapters to recover from. As we read on we can even begin to understand Snow, feel for him, and side with many of his motivations. Only by the end chapters do we see glimpses of the Snow we know from the Katniss's era, and in many ways we are glad to see this snake emerge.
One of the greatest joys of any prequel is the moments of character recognition and Collins certainly does not disappoint on this element. The surprises are aplenty, with names dropping in in the places we least expected them and nods to norms from the other books at the outset of their origins dazzling us with their realities.
If you enjoyed The Hunger Games The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will only further your passion and love for the series, gifting us all with a greater understanding to this bitter world.
We await more from Collins with baited breath. Her marvelous writing style, glorious character creations and deep understanding of human nature remain something we wish to see a great deal more of in any fictional setting she chooses.
We give The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Five Stars
ISBN - 978-0-702300-17-2 Hardback cover price - £18.99