How to Write a Prequel that Honours the Original Fans
Suzanne Collins has produced a stunning prequel for Hunger Games fans
No matter the success of the author, there are always some that go for the extra cash. JK Rowling despite her millions chose to write several additional books for the Harry Potter series.
For me, The Hunger Games was the trilogy that changed my life. Friends had talked about the excitement of waiting for the next Harry Potter book, I never understood it. Don’t get me wrong I looked forward to each new release, but I didn’t crave it the way others did. Then along came The Hunger Games and I understood completely.
It saddens me to this day, I can’t remember how I came to read the first book. I know it was before the films, were even talked about. I presume that during one of my wanders around the bookshop, I picked it up and liked what I read. It started me on a journey of young adult dystopian’s, that included Divergent and Maze Runner.
From that first Hunger Games book, I was hooked. I loved the characters and the world Collins had built. I have read every adventure many times and watched the films more times than I care to mention. Jennifer Lawrence for me was the perfect Katniss. With this love of the trilogy, it was with trepidation I started reading the prequel — A Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes.
A Ballard of Songbirds and Snakes
My first feeling was that I had come home. The world was so familiar. It was lovely going back there, it was like a bad holiday. The destination was truly awful but familiar enough to feel comfortable.
The story is set 64 years before Katniss enters the arena. It is the story of everyone’s favourite villain, President Snow. It is also set ten years after the Great War. Ten years after the annihilation of District 13.
Snow is a boy in the academy, who has been chosen to mentor the district twelve tribute, in the tenth annual Hunger Games. Although he comes from a long-established Capitol family, he is destitute. His family have lost all their money during the Great War. He is hungry, eating cabbage soup most nights. His clothes are threadbare and hand downs from his father.
Everything about the early Hunger Games is different. The treatment of the tributes is poor, the backdrop a derelict sporting arena and the games less manipulated. Rather than languishing in beautiful Capitol buildings, the tributes are kept in a monkey cage at the local zoo. The tables filled with food, that Katniss experiences are gone. Instead, the tributes are starved to death. They enter the games weak, dirty and terrorised.
The basic premise of the early games is to put two tributes from each district into an old stadium, that has been destroyed during the war. A bunch of weapons are thrown in and there is nowhere to hide. A straight fight of the strongest and quickest occurs. The average length of time for these early games, a couple of days.
Mentors are a new edition to the games and Snow one of the first batch, all chosen from the Capitol. We follow Snow through his journey mentoring the amazing Lucy Gray Baird the female, district twelve tribute.
Through this experience, we see the Snow from Hunger Games slowly take shape. We also learn about his past and childhood, some of the revelations are as shocking as Effie Trinket’s hair.
A Book for Fans
The clever aspect of this prequel is the fact it is a fan’s book. For those that have loved the trilogy, as much as I have, there is extra content everywhere. The hidden gems are throughout the book. From the names that are used for some of the mentors, all relations of the Hunger Games characters. To the extra information, you are gifted.
The origin of the song that Katniss sings on the water bank and the reason that Snow hates it so much, is included. One of the small characters from the trilogy, that of Tigris is explained fully and she has a surprising connection to Snow.
I don’t always like prequels for books I have loved. Go Set a Watchman is one prequel, I was disappointed in. Being a long time fan of To Kill a Mockingbird the prequel left me miserable.
That is not the case with A Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. Suzanne Collins has written a masterpiece, for all fans. The level of detail and thought she has put in shows respect for her readers’ other authors do not possess. This was one prequel I was not disappointed to read, as I spent an amazing weekend in Panem. I felt for those forty-eight hours that I had gone back to somewhere very familiar and loved.