Bismillah Hir Rahman Ir Raheem
Peace and blessings be upon you all
Rating: 9.5/10, because to me, the book was pure perfection.
I’ve decided to divide this post into spoiler-free and spoiler alert zone. I’ll start off with spoiler free and then I’ll give the disclaimer for the next one. So let’s do this!
Those of you who are reading or planning to read this book must’ve read The Hunger Games books so you’ll get who the main lead is; President Snow or before he was president, Coriolanus Snow.
This book eloquently describes the history of Coriolanus Snow in his late teens and what eventually made him to be the ruthless tyrant of a President. It takes place ten years after the war.
Although I think it would’ve been great if the story was told in first person, because being in someone’s mind is….something else. However, in every aspect of the story you are following Coriolanus. You’re in his mind reading his thoughts, however if that was going to be the case it should’ve been in first person so one could have a certain bond with him, irrespective of who he is, so the impact is high. That is my only complain.
The story is written with such detail, precision, and eloquence and packed full of symbolism and irony it makes you pull the skin of your face…..literally. That’s what I did. It is very interesting and engaging with a perfect balance of humor and seriousness, of dialogue and action. There were a lot of “What the hell?” & funny moments. Politics was highlighted a lot, or perhaps more, in Ballad.
It definitely provides link to The Hunger Games series without emphasising on it too much so that you just keep searching for clues of the trilogy because this book was complete in itself.
It describes the evolution of Snow’s character so well that you have to choose if you’re supporting him or opposing him due to knowledge of his future, especially when you’re reading his thoughts. I think that’s important because when you describe a villain, you have to describe him with a neutral point of view. Not everyone is born bad; circumstances make them bad but it’s their choice whether to be defined by it or to choose their own way and Coriolanus is a human being hence he should be treated that way. It was great that he wasn’t your typical ruler when he was President Snow. He was a snake then, whose strike was subtle yet potent.
The pace of the book was great, not too fast, not too slow. I’d read a chapter a day only as it was quite long and I had to study but still so much happened in each chapter that there was not a moment of boredom and no component of the story that wasn’t essential. As in The Hunger Games trilogy, simple scenes as that of Katniss’s view of District 12 and the delicious lamb stew in the Capitol was described so well that they were enjoyable to read, even though you knew it was very simple. The same applies to Ballad.
If they make the film, I hope the director and crew is the same as that of Hunger Games because they did a brilliant job!
DISCLAIMER: SPOILER ALERT!!!!
As soon as I read the name Tigris in the first chapter, I thought “I’ve read this name before. Could it be that tiger lady in Mockingjay? But she’d be quite old.” But when I read Mockingjay, it didn’t tell anything about her past, apart from having done something against Snow, and it didn’t mention her age either. She’s just told to be an old stylist for the games, whereas Tigris in Ballad was a stylist. Could they be the same person?
The Hunger Games:
The Games were a bit fast paced but I suppose it was because there wasn’t much significant to tell, except that why it came to be. The games were important only to compare how it was in the 10th as compared to the 74th so they didn’t need to spend a lot of pages on this so I really appreciate that.
This game was different from the 74th & 75th. It was interesting how the mentors sent gifts and how they were used by the tributes, whose behavior was very realistic.
The Evolution of Coriolanus Snow:
I love how they show where President Snow’s personality comes from: using poison to get what he wants like to help Lucy Gray win, being manipulative, being against lies due to his experience with Dr Gaul, etc. As we see in Catching Fire onwards when he tells Katniss that they should agree not to lie to each other and how that remains till Mockingjay. There was a lot of bad aspects of Snow’s character but I appreciate the fact that he didn’t lie then (although there was a lot of betrayal and lying onwards in Ballad).
Snow getting caught after The Hunger Games was a nice twist, although expected as if they didn’t find his compact and the handkerchief used to sneak food, they’d definitely find the handkerchief he put in the snake cage. I was literally waiting for it as soon as Lucy had won. However, it was still quite shocking.
At the last chapter of the book and epilogue, I was pulling the skin of my face, holding my head because my mind was saying: WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?! WHAT JUST HAPPENED???!!!!
Sejanus executed, Snow trying to kill Lucy, Sejanus’s family welcoming Snow’s family, Snow killing Dean Highbottom!!!!
All for this stupid motto!!!! Snow lands on top?!
The book shows a remarkable evolution of Coriolanus. Initially, he had a bit of morality at first which often shook in stressful and tough situations, but then his main aim was keeping the status of his family high and to gain power. He was mistreated by the Capitol but his conclusion became to serve it until he gained the authority to do as he wished.
Sejanus’ hanging was so sad, and his family “adopts” Snow. Despite Snow being the one to turn him in. That was soooo cruel!! I was pulling the skin of my face in both scenes. Yet he still wanted stuff from her and thought less of her because at the end she was still District.
Furthermore, I could tell once Snow came to District 12 that Snow & Lucy would not be together forever. They both only got attracted to each other because of their boldness, charm and humor but in the end they both wanted different things. He wanted control over chaos and the Capitol to rule forever & she wanted to be free like a mockingjay. She’d find out and eventually die somehow.
Eventually her existence was the threat to everything he believed in: the Katniss flower, the songs especially Hanging Tree (OMG that scene though when she sings and the mockingjays sing too? Wow! Snow must’ve enjoyed that scene in Catching Fire where the jabberjays were crying out the voices of Prim and Gale), supporting the mockingjays and rebels, wanting to be free……What Snow said the movie Mockingjay part 1, “It’s the thing we love most that destroys us!” applies to both Katniss & Snow, doesn’t it?
You could tell Lucy didn’t usually delve much into his ideology because perhaps deep down she probably knew who he was too.
In addition, it was strange that Snow didn’t like the tributes being in a cage but his alternative was just to treat them well before the games instead of opposing the whole concept of the games.
Snow didn’t know the districts had much more devastating losses during the war or care about that. Nonetheless, we got to know that the Capitol experienced devastating outcomes as well. But it was much less than the Districts and they didn’t handle the loss very well and carried on that grief for years and years. That too on children who are naive and innocent.
This is a very important concept of how a toxic dangerous cycle has long-term insurmountable outcomes. You take revenge and make things right properly only when you break the cycle.
Look at how the Games evolved because of that. Courtesy of President Coriolanus Snow, and people cheered them on!
In the end, what Finnick said in Mockingjay turned out to be true. How Snow used poison to rise to a high status. Starting from the Hunger Games to get the scholarship. Then Dean Highbottom who mocked him. He became monstrous one chapter after another.
Poison. The perfect weapon for a snake.
Katniss & Lucy – The Mockingjays:
Coriolanus’s former predicament was quite similar to Katniss’s. Katniss was mistreated by the Capitol as well, but instead of supporting the devil to achieve her personal gain, she chose to fight against the entire structure, no matter how much Snow tried to threaten her and Peeta and no matter how much their lives were in danger. They both had a choice, however it can be said that neither of them had the liberty to choose freely.
It’s quite ironic that Katniss beat Snow at his own game with the poison berries. The very thing he used to win and rise to power was the very thing Katniss used to try and topple it down. One deed had different outcomes based on intention.
In addition, Katniss chose love in the 74th games Aside from the berries, she chose love whereas Snow had betrayed the people he did/sort of loved, like Sejanus and Lucy.
She defied his entire ideology of life and love. By simply presenting berries.
Katniss’s every action was a defiance to his ideology as Lucy’s every action was. If you only read the Hunger Games trilogy, you think that Snow hated her because of the berries but everything about Katniss was a reminder of Lucy.
Volunteering for the games was a scene she created like Lucy. The cheating with the poison berries. Singing to Rue. Being the Mockingjay. Dancing to the music at Finnick’s wedding. Snow saw the reincarnation of Lucy in Katniss. Would she and the mockingjays be able to hurt him again?
Coriolanus tried to control the ‘chaos’ in the people around him but he couldn’t. He failed with Sejanus who was from district. He failed with Lucy. He failed with Katniss. He only overcame Peeta by torture and hijacking. He couldn’t overcome their moral fibre by simply torturing them or even just talking to them.
Dr Gaul’s ‘training’:
I think Dr Gaul saw potential in him as she gave him so much attention. Every situation she threw Snow in; The Arena, District 12. It was all a sort of manipulative training to bring him on her side. Eventually, Coriolanus became the culmination of Dr. Gaul as they both emphasised on the idea that the Capitol was the only way to maintain peace by ‘controlling chaos’ and they both believed that The Hunger Games helped maintain a war that could always stay within their control.
I loved all the songs in the book!! I loved reading new exciting songs and also reading and singing the old songs again, knowing the tunes due to the courtesy of the movies, and at the end when Katniss is singing it to her children in the desolated meadow after the bombing in Catching Fire………..
The irony in this series is on fire!! Like The Girl on Fire. See what I did there?
Clue of Lucy Gray in The Hunger Games part 1 book:
At the end of Ballad, the first chapter of the first book of The Hunger Games was written so I read that for any clues about Lucy:
“Then he read the list of past District 12 victors. In seventy-four years, we have had exactly two. Only one is still alive. Haymitch Abernathy……..”The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
and she learnt all those songs from the origins of that unknown victor. There so much symbolism and irony, it’s awesome!
However, a question remains:
Did Lucy Gray live or die?
Well, she sang after he shot at some place and found her not there. I’m not sure but her essence remained as her songs lived on as Katniss’s father taught the song to Katniss. I think she’s alive and knowing how resourceful she is, she could’ve lived long but then again, it’s supposed to be a mystery. Like the song.
Also, she could still be alive at the time of the 74th Hunger Games. Old but alive like Snow. But like I said, it’s a mystery. Hidden from snow…and Snow.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _
It is truly a Ballad of Songbirds and Snake.
Of Lucy and Snow .
Or of Katniss and Snow.
I’d end this post with the motto that concludes this book, “Snow lands on top!” However, after knowing what takes place in the Hunger Games trilogy, I’ll add a sentence to this:
“Snow lands on top, but the song isn’t over until the mockingjay sings“
However, he did go to District 12 in Catching Fire. At a personal risk of course.