The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is the prequel to The Hunger Games trilogy and it is about an eighteen-year old boy named Coriolanus Snow, nicknamed “Coryo” by his cousin, Tigris. He is selected, among twenty-three of his fellow classmates, to mentor a tribute in the tenth annual Hunger Games.
In this book, Coriolanus is forced to mentor the District Twelve tribute, Lucy Gray Baird, who is at the severe disadvantage in the Games (a gladiatorial “game” where kids have to kill each other). The children from District Twelve don’t have any proper survival, nor combat training, therefore making them easy pickings for other tributes such as Reaper, a burly male from District Eleven. The odds are already against Lucy Gray, and the fact that she’s better at singing than fighting doesn’t help her chances at all. Coriolanus is at first disappointed–he thinks that his tribute stands no chance at winning. And his future depends on her victory; the mentor whose tribute wins the Games will get to attend the Capitol university. But the better he gets to know his tribute, the more attached he gets to her, and the more determined he is to help her through the Games, not just for his own sake. Together, they try to win over the Capitol’s support: staging interviews and impromptu performances for the viewers. He does everything possible to help her in the Games, gaining her sponsors from the Capitol audience and illegally bringing her extra food so she can keep up her strength. They are a formidable team outside of the arena, but no one knows if they can pull off a win inside the arena–not even Coriolanus.
All too soon, Lucy Gray and her fellow tributes are transported into the arena, an old Capitol theater that’s mostly demolished. Originally, Lucy Gray had to face down twenty-three other tributes, but many of them died or got killed before the Games began, upping the chances of her survival. Even the boy from District Two, the one who had the best odds of winning, got killed off in the first battle. In the Games, Lucy Gray’s strategy becomes outlasting the others. She hides out in some corner of the arena with Jessup, her protector. Throughout the book, Coriolanus and Lucy Gray go through many struggles, but due to the fact that I don’t want to spoil the outcome, I can’t say anything else about the Games.
After the Games are over, Coriolanus gets transported to District Twelve, where he works as a Peacekeeper. He meets many friends, but makes plenty of enemies as well. In the district, his life takes a turn for the worse, his depression only ending when he gets summoned back to the Capitol to attend the University at last.
Overall, this book is an amazing story about an underprivileged character defying the worst odds. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes novels with action, plot twists, and just a hint of deception along the way.