Top Ten Tuesday – Favourite Films/Film Series Based on Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  The official topic for this week is Bookish Merchandise I’d love to Own, which does sound fun, although I have no idea what I would put up as my choices.  As such, I thought I’d take this opportunity to finally post a list that I have been thinking about for a few weeks, looking at my top ten favourite films or film series that are based on books.

Adapting bestselling novels and books into movies is something Hollywood has been doing for decades, often with great success.  While some adaptations that failed, either due to the original source material or general problems with production, many have turned out to be exceedingly epic films that I have deeply enjoyed.  This is something I have been thinking of a lot lately, not only because some great books have film adaptations coming out soon (Bullet Train by Kotaro Isaka and The Gray Man by Mark Greaney for examples), but also because I just saw the latest Fantastic Beasts film.  So, as I tend to when my mind wanders along this track, I started researching and listing all the various films that are based on books and tried to work out what my absolute favourites were.  This turned out to be such a fun list to pull together that I just had to share it up on the blog.

To appear on this list, the relevant film or series needs to be based on a book in some shape or form.  In trying to work out what are my absolute favourites I am looking at a few things, general quality of the film, how much I enjoyed it as well as whether it is a good adaptation of the source material.  In a few cases, I may not have read the books the films are adapted from, but I have still included them here due to the quality of the film.  I decided to exclude films based off comics from this list as I already have a few lists for this (an MCU list, a DC Comics movie list, and an animated comic movie list).  Despite this, I still ended up with a ton of potential entries for this list and I had to do a ton of cutting to get it down to 10 with my usual generous honourable mentions section.  The end result is pretty interesting and I think that it does a good job reflecting which film adaptions are my favourite.

Honourable Mentions:

The Hobbit trilogy

The Hobbit Poster

While this series does have some issues, and probably shouldn’t have been broken up into a trilogy, I had fun with it and there are some good moments throughout these movies.  I think that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Desolation of Smaug were really well done, its just a shame that The Battle of Five Armies didn’t live up to its full potential and really dragged the whole trilogy down.

 

Hannibal Lector trilogy

The Silence of the Lambs Poster

I had to mention these dark thrillers somewhere on this list as they are pretty damn iconic and cool.  Based on the works of Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal and Red Dragon are pretty awesome films with some brilliant performances from Anthony Hopkins and others (Ralph Fiennes in Red Dragon is extremely good).  Also, mad props to the Hannibal television show, if I do a list about television shows based on books, that will make the cut for sure.

 

James Bond films

Tomorrow Never Dies Poster

I have already mentioned in a previous list how much I loved the James Bond films, but I had to include them here as well.  Based on the novels by Ian Flemming, this whole series is very fun, and there are some truly impressive and iconic films here.

 

A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind Poster

I have a lot of love for this excellent bio film, based on the book by Sylvia Nasar.  Filled with a great cast, this Russell Crowe led film is moving and clever, and contains a fantastic twist halfway through, especially if you don’t know too much about the person it is based on.

Top Ten List:

The Lord of the Rings trilogy

The Return of the King Cover

I don’t need to do a lot of selling for this first entry.  If you are reading this blog than you probably know that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is easily the best and most epic adaptation of a novel ether done.  All three films are pretty damn incredible with a perfect cast and will leave you breathless at every turn.  Also, do yourself a favour and check out the extended editions at some point, it may be long, but it is very much worth it.

 

Harry Potter series

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Poster

Who doesn’t love it when their favourite childhood series is turned into an impressive movie series?  The Harry Potter films are extremely good films by themselves, and they also serve as outstanding adaptations of their source materials.  Filled with a great combination of new actors and some of the best British actors of all time, these films were an absolute institution for very good reasons and are so much fun to watch.

 

The Hunger Games series

The Hunger Games Poster

Another young adult series I had to include, The Hunger Games films are some of my favourite dystopian movies to watch and they were done so perfectly.  Serving as brilliant and powerful films with an excellent story of survival and revolution, The Hunger Games films are excellent adaptations of the original novels, while also adding some original touches and perspectives.  All four films are unique in their own way (Catching Fire was my favourite), and I personally think that the creators made the right decision breaking Mockinjay into two separate movies.  I have rewatched these films multiple times and with an adaptation of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes also on the way, this appears to be a series that will keep on giving.

 

The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride Poster

Not including The Princess Bride on this list, INCONCEIVABLE!!!  Based on the novel of the same name by William Goldman, this was an incredible film, and I can still remember the first time I watched it.  This was mainly because I was a stupid teenager who thought that a movie called The Princess Bride wasn’t going to be manly enough for me.  Well just like the kid in the movie, I quickly got extremely attached to its brilliant and hilarious story, as well as the unique and powerful cast it contained.  This film has some of the most iconic and impressive lines and moments in film history: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father.  Prepare to die”.  It also has in my opinion, one of the best swordfights in film history, which is just so damn epic.  This is an incredible and distinctive film adaptation and is a much watch for pretty much everyone.

 

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park Poster

I probably would have been eaten by vengeful dinosaurs (and their fans) if I hadn’t included Jurassic Park on this list, and for good reason.  Based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, this film is awesomeness personified thanks to its outstanding graphics and very clever story, both of which have more than stood the test of time.  This film essentially ensured an entire generation and beyond fell in love with dinosaurs and is easily one of my favourite films of all times.

 

The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption Poster

Get busy living or get busy dying, but make sure you watch this iconic film at least once in your life.  Probably the best adaptation of a Stephen King book ever made (ok technically a novella, but who’s counting), The Shawshank Redemption is an insanely moving and powerful film about life in a prison.  Easily one of the most recognisable films of the 1990s, this outstanding film has more than stood the test of time and is a brilliant and utterly addictive adaptation.

 

The Great Escape

The Great Escape Poster

From one film about prison life to the greatest escape story ever, we have the classic 1963 film, The Great Escape.  Based on the 1950 book of the same name by Paul Brickhill, The Great Escape is a stirring and outstanding World War II film that tells the tale of a mass escape from a German POW camp.  Starring some truly brilliant actors, like Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson and so many more, this film quickly grabs your attention with its catchy music and entertaining plot.  Inspiration and moving in equal measures, this film will keep you entertained right up to its dark end is a must watch for all fans of a classic war movie.

 

Forrest Gump

Forrest Gump Poster

If you’ve seen the Forrest Gump film, you already know why its on this list.  The surprising and heart-warming tale of a remarkable man in 20th century America, this is a film like no other that features Tom Hanks at his very best.  While the plot does differentiate significantly from its source book by Winston Groom, this is such a brilliant film that gets a ton of love from me.

 

Die Hard

Die Hard Poster

Another film that wildly differed from its original source material but still turned out great is my favourite Christmas film, Die Hard.  Loosely based on Roderick Thorp’s novel Nothing Lasts Forever, Die Hard is easily one of the greatest action films of all-time, launching the action career of Bruce Willis and introducing the world to Alan Rickman (before throwing him off a tower).  There are so many awesome and cool moments throughout this film, many of which are taken in part from the novel, and I will automatically start watching Die Hard any time it is on.

 

Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire Poster

The final book on this list is the fantastic, feel-good film Slumdog Millionaire.  I have always really loved this touching film which is loosely based on the novel Q&A by Indian author Vikas Swarup.  Combining a tragic life story with an iconic game show (the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? for the film version), this is a touching and very captivating character-driven film featuring an excellent cast of Indian actors.  This is such an incredible film to watch, and I cannot recommend it enough.

 

 

Well, that is the end of this latest list.  As you can see, there are some brilliant film adaptations of great books out there, and I think that the above does a great job of reflecting my personal favourites.  This is probably a list I will come back to in the future, especially as there are more and more film adaptations of novels coming out every year.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite films based on books are in the comments below.

 

Top Ten Tuesday – My Favourite Literary Trilogies

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that currently resides at The Artsy Reader Girl and features bloggers sharing lists on various book topics.  While the official topic for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday required participants to list the 10 characters they would love an update on, I have decided to do something a little different, and instead will be listening my favourite literary trilogies.

Trilogies in literature are a long-running and deeply fun tradition that packs an epic connected tale, into three consecutive novels.  There are some truly amazing trilogies out there, from the classics, like The Lord of the Rings, to some recent trilogies that I have been deeply enjoying.  Indeed, 2021 alone has seen the end of several epic and outstanding literary trilogies.  I just finished one particularly incredible trilogy, and it got me thinking about some of the other amazing three-book series I have read.  That inspired me and I thought I would take this opportunity to try and list my 10 favourite novel trilogies of all time.  I have had the great pleasure of reading some truly awesome and exciting trilogies over the years, and I feel this is the perfect time to highlight them, especially if anyone is looking for a new trilogy/series to get addicted to.

This proved to be a fun list to pull together, especially as I had a great wealth of potential trilogies to feature on this list.  To be eligible for this list, the proposed trilogy must consist of three, inter-connected novels.  I only included series that were intended to end after three novels, rather than by happenstance, so that means that series like The Gentleman Bastards will not be featured (it technically has a fourth novel on the way).  I also excluded trilogies that I have not yet completed, even if I have already read and deeply enjoyed the first two novels.  This is because I really need to see how the third book turns out, as a bad third entry can easily spoil a trilogy that starts out with some fantastic novels.

Even with these restrictions, I ended up with a descent list of trilogies, which took me a little while to cull down and which resulted in a good honourable mentions section.  I am judging these trilogies on several factors, including how complete their story is, how well connected the novels are, and whether the component novels provide good introductions, conclusions and connections to the other books in the trilogy.  I am pretty happy with how this latest Top Ten Tuesday turned out, and I think that perfectly represents the best trilogies that I have so far finished.

Honourable Mentions:

The Wounded Kingdom trilogy by R. J. Barker

Wounded Kingdom Trilogy

A fun and awesome dark fantasy trilogy that follows an assassin as he finds himself fighting for the future of a kingdom.  Featuring a great first novel (Age of Assassins), a powerful middle entry (Blood of Assassins) and an epic ending (King of Assassins), this debut series from R. J. Barker was pretty damn awesome and really worth a read.

 

DiscworldMoist von Lipwig trilogy by Terry Pratchett

Moist von Lipwig Trilogy

Terry Pratchett’s exceptional Discworld series featured several interconnected sub-series and standalone reads, but only the Moist von Lipwig books can really be considered a trilogy.  Made up of Going Postal, Making Money and Raising Steam, these are some of Pratchett’s final books, and have a different, but still entertaining, writing stye to them.  While I love these three novels, I have decided to leave this trilogy as an honourable mention due to its potential premature ending and its complex status within the larger Discworld series.

 

Royal Bastards trilogy by Andrew Shvarts

Royal Bastards Cover

A fantastic and clever young adult fantasy series that followed the illegitimate children of treacherous nobles as they try to right the wrongs of their parents.  Consisting of Royal Bastards, City of Bastards and War of the Bastards, this is an impressive and captivating trilogy with some dark storylines and complex characters.

 

The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Hunger Games Trilogy

I had to include the iconic Hunger Games novels by Suzanne Collins on this list.  Made up of The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, this is a great and fast-paced dystopian series that I have read a few times now.  All three novels are a lot of fun, although the first book is probably the best.  A recent prequel novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes came out last year and is also worth a read.

Top Ten List:

The First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

First Law Trilogy

Let us start this list off with the dark fantasy masterpiece that is Joe Abercrombie’s epic and exceptional The First Law trilogy.  Consisting of The Blade Itself, Before they are Hanged and Last Argument of Kings, this amazing trilogy follows a group of extremely complex and damaged characters as they attempt to navigate a dark world filled with betrayal, uncontrolled ambition, and all manner of monsters.  All three books are pretty incredible, with The Blade Itself providing an outstanding introduction, while Last Argument of Kings wraps everything up perfectly and leaves the reader with a troubling but memorable conclusion.  I powered through this trilogy in a very short time, and it remains one of my all-time favourite pieces of fantasy fiction.

 

Star Wars: Thrawn trilogy by Timothy Zahn

Thrawn Trilogy

Next, we have an amazing and complex Star Wars series by the legendary Timothy Zahn, who brings back his iconic extended universe character, Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Based in the new Disney canon, the Thrawn trilogy seeks to expand on the character’s appearances in Star Wars: Rebels and presents a complex and intriguing picture of this master tactician.  Featuring Thrawn, Alliances and Treason, this is a very well balanced and fascinating trilogy that is a must read for all Star Wars fans and is probably worth checking out before the character’s live action debut next year.  I was also tempted to include Zahn’s Thrawn Ascendancy novels (made up of Chaos Rising, Greater Good and Lesser Evil), but I am only halfway through the final book, and I really want to see how it concludes first.

 

The Icewind Dale trilogy by R. A. Salvatore

Icewind Dale Trilogy

Iconic fantasy author, R. A. Salvatore, has made a career out of writing trilogies, and there were several I could have included, especially his Dark Elf trilogy.  However, I think that his debut Icewind Dale series, is his most consistently impressive trilogy.  While the first novel, The Crystal Shard is a tad rough, the second and third books, Streams of Silver and The Halfling’s Gem, more than make up for it, and produce a brilliant overall story.  This series expertly introduces several of Salvatore’s key protagonists (who he is still writing about to this day) and sets up some outstanding plot points.  High fantasy at its very best, The Icewind Dale trilogy is an intense, classic trilogy that I can read again and again.

 

The Century trilogy by Ken Follett

Century Trilogy

Another author with some big series under his belt is talented thriller and historical fiction author Ken Follett.  My personal favourite Follett series is The Century trilogy, a massive and comprehensive historical fiction trilogy, made up of Fall of Giants, Winter of the World and Edge of Eternity.  This book takes place throughout the 20th century and follows three generations of several families as they navigate the century’s big historical events, including two world wars and the Cold War.  Some of the best historical fiction writing you are ever likely to see; this is a powerful and captivating series.

 

The Tide Child trilogy by R. J. Barker

The Tide Child Trilogy

The trilogy that inspired me to write this list was the exceptional The Tide Child trilogy by rising fantasy fiction start R. J. Barker.  Barker did some incredible work here producing an intense and addictive dark fantasy series that takes place primarily on a naval vessel made from dragon bones.  With some exceptional character work, beautifully written scenes, and some truly unique fantasy features, The Tide Child series is one of the absolute best fantasy trilogies out there.  All three novels, The Bone Ships (one of the best books and audiobooks of 2019), Call of the Bone Ships, and The Bone Ship’s Wake, are exceptional and enchanting reads, which come together to form a brilliant and highly recommend trilogy.

 

Planetside trilogy by Michael Mammay

Planetside Cover

Another great trilogy I finished this year was Michael Mammay’s outstanding Planetside science fiction thriller trilogy.  Consisting of Planetside (one of the best books of 2018), Spaceside and Colonyside (one of the best books and audiobooks from the first half of this year), this epic trilogy follows a cynical military veteran who is dragged in to investigate a series of conspiracies, which continually forces him to commit genocide.  One of the cleverest series I have read in recent years, Mammay is an exceptional author, and I had a lot of fun getting through this trilogy.

 

The Age of Madness trilogy by Joe Abercrombie

Age of Madness Trilogy

Not content with only having one exceptional fantasy trilogy, Joe Abercrombie had to double down and write the epic sequel trilogy, The Age of Madness.  Set a generation after The First Law trilogy, the three Age of Madness novels, A Little Hatred, The Trouble with Peace and The Wisdom of Crowds, contains another outstanding dark fantasy tale following a whole new group of complex and troubled protagonists.  This brilliant trilogy has only just come to an end and featured three outstanding five-star reads.  These amazing novels form a deeply thrilling and powerful trilogy, and The Age of Madness books are some of the best pieces of fantasy fiction of the last three years.

 

The Empire trilogy by Raymond E. Feist and Janny Wurts

The Empire Trilogy Cover

I was spoiled for choice when it came to Raymond E. Feist and his multitude of great trilogies, from his iconic Riftwar Saga to his current The Fireman Saga (King of Ashes and Queen of Storms).  However, I think his most consistent and impressive trilogy was The Empire trilogy he cowrote with Janny Wurts.  Set at the same time as the Riftwar Saga, this trilogy explored an alien fantasy world with some major Japanese influences.  An intense and action-packed fantasy trilogy loaded with political intrigue, family feuds and a female ruler battling for control in a male-dominated world, The Empire books, Daughter of the Empire, Servant of the Empire and Mistress of the Empire, form an exceptional trilogy that is really worth reading.

 

Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron trilogy by Alexander Freed

Alphabet Squadron Cover

Another exceptional trilogy that finished this year was the amazing Star Wars: Alphabet Squadron series by Alexander Freed.  Made up of Alphabet Squadron, Shadow Fall and Victory’s Price, this trilogy followed a group of pilots in the immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi, as they continue to fight the brutal war to claim the universe.  This trilogy combined a gritty and complex war story with the iconic Star Wars universe to create three impressive novels that work brilliantly as an overarching series.  All three books are really good, although Victory’s Price proved to be an exceptional conclusion that brought everything together perfectly.  A great read for Star Wars fans looking for some darker tie-in content.

 

Swords and Fire trilogy by Melissa Caruso

Swords and Fire Trilogy

The final entry on this list is the debut trilogy from talented fantasy author Melissa Caruso.  Featuring The Tethered Mage, The Defiant Heir, and The Unbound Empire, the Swords and Fire trilogy tells the tale of the unlikely partnership of an ambitious noble and a reckless, ultra-powerful mage, whose fates are literally bound together.  This is an amazing and inventive fantasy trilogy that pits this duo against conspiracies, a nation of terrifying magical users, and their own substantial personal issues.  I deeply enjoyed this cool trilogy and I really need to start reading the sequel series Caruso is currently working on.

 

 

Well, that’s the end of this list.  As you can see, I have read some awesome trilogies over the years, and I think this list does a great job highlighting them all.  I will probably end up coming back to this list at some point in the future, especially as there are some outstanding trilogies, I am currently in the middle of that will easy make this list in the future.  In the meantime, let me know what your favourite trilogies are in the comments below.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Cover

Publisher: Scholastic Audio (Audiobook – 19 May 2020)

Series: The Hunger Games – Book 0

Length: 16 hours and 16 minutes

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

It is time to return to Panem as bestselling young adult fiction author Suzanne Collins presents the thrilling prequel to her acclaimed The Hunger Games series, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

It has been 10 years since the third and final book in The Hunger Games trilogy was published. Since then the series has gone from strength the strength, thanks to the four films that converted these books into an ultra-popular franchise. Like many, I jumped onto The Hunger Games bandwagon after the first film was released, and I ended up listening to all three of the novels in quick succession. This of course turned me into a pretty major fan of the franchise, and I eagerly watched the next three films as they were released. As a result, I was extremely intrigued when I heard that Collins was writing a prequel novel, and I have been looking forward to it for some time. I ended up listening to the audiobook version of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes right after its release, and it proved to be an extremely interesting book that I rather enjoyed.

It has only been a decade since the Capitol won the war that ravished Panem, defeating the Districts and forcing them back under Capitol control. As punishment for their crimes, every year two children from each of the 12 surviving Districts are forced to compete in the Hunger Games, a brutal fight to the death from which there is only one survivor. While many in both the Capitol and the Districts view the Games as distasteful, for one young man it represents an invaluable opportunity.

Coriolanus Snow is a young academy student whose family has fallen on hard times after the war. Coriolanus’s one chance to get into the Capitol university and have a chance at wealth and prestige is to successfully mentor one of the tributes in the annual Hunger Games and ensure that they win. The odds seem to be against him when he is given the female tribute from District 12, generally considered the lowest tribute with the worst odds of surviving. However, when his tribute, the wild and alluring Lucy Gray Baird, sings on stage at the reaping, Coriolanus’s hopes rise, as her antics capture the attention of everyone in the Capitol. Determined to succeed no matter the cost, Coriolanus soon finds his fate entwined with that of Lucy Gray. But as he gets closer and closer with his tribute, just how far is Coriolanus willing to go, and how will his decisions now affect the future of Panem forever?

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a captivating and entertaining read that serves as a fascinating prequel to the original Hunger Games novels. Collins comes up with a fantastic, character-driven story that focuses on the main antagonist of the first trilogy, President Snow, while also diving back into the past of her unique dystopian future, showing the early days of the Hunger Games. I have to admit that I had rather high expectations going into this novel, and I ended up being a little disappointed at times with how it turned out. This was a rather less exciting read than the previous Hunger Games books, as Collins spends a lot of time exploring society, human nature and the psyche of the villainous protagonist. It was also way too long, and I think it could have been shortened down a little. Despite probably being my least favourite Hunger Games novel so far, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is still a really good book that I had an amazing time listening to it.

This book contains an intriguing plot that follows the protagonist as he becomes involved in the events of the 10th annual Hunger Games. The story is broken up into three distinctive parts, each of which takes up about a third of the book’s narrative. The first part deals with the lead-up to the Hunger Games, the second part follows the actual Hunger Games as Snow watches from the outside, while the last third of the book details the aftermath of the games, and features a new adventure for the protagonist. Each of these three parts proved to be enjoyable in their own right, and together they formed a rather compelling overall narrative. I was a little surprised that the actual Hunger Games ended about two-thirds of the way into the story. When the novel suddenly jumped to a post-Hunger Games storyline with third of the book still to go, I honestly thought that Collins had made a mistake, and would have been better off portraying an extended Hunger Games. However, this third part served as a rather good conclusion to the entire novel, and I actually really liked some of the major plot elements that occurred there, especially as they were the most transformative part of the novel for the main character. There are a lot of cool moments within this story, as well as a bevy of supporting characters, many of whom Collins is able to give a bit of depth to with a few short paragraphs. I actually really enjoyed where this story went, and while I did envision it going in a different direction, I think that Collins did a good job with it in the end.

One of the key things about The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is that it serves as an origin story for President Snow, the main antagonist of the original Hunger Games trilogy. It features an 18-year-old Snow as the main character and is told completely from his perspective. I understand that quite a few people were not exactly thrilled that President Snow was the focus of this novel, and many did not want to see a book that followed a young version of him. While I can understand their feelings about this, I personally enjoyed seeing something that focused on Snow and his early history. I have read and enjoyed many stories in the past that focus on a villain, or which features them as a major protagonist, and it can often be quite fun to see their perspectives and motivations. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is a good example of this, and I found it fascinating to see a younger Snow and watch his involvement in his first Hunger Games.

Collins has an interesting take on the character of the young President Snow, and presents the reader with some key moments from his life, as well as some of the people who helped shape him into the villain we know in the later books. The author spends time exploring elements of his childhood, such as showing how he suffered during the war, not only losing both his parents, but also nearly dying from starvation as the Districts besieged the Capitol. There are also some intriguing examinations of his family, such as the grandmother who gifted him his love of roses, and the revelation that the character of Tigress, who appeared in the third book (fourth movie), is actually Snow’s cousin and closest living relative. However, despite these more humanising elements, Snow is shown to be a truly irredeemable person even before the transformative events of the novel. From the very start of the book, Collins portrays him as a manipulative and conceited individual, constantly sucking up to people in order to get what he wants, resentful of those around him who have more than he does and concerned most of all with status. While there are some intriguing nature versus nurture elements to his early behaviours, Snow is shown to be just an unpleasant person. This of course makes him a hard protagonist to get behind for this book, and for most of the story you really were not rooting for him to succeed. Despite this, I found his story to be rather compelling and I enjoyed seeing this mostly amoral teenager attempt to succeed, while presenting the reader with various, weak or selfish justifications for his actions in his mind.

While he is already a pretty despicable person, it is the events of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes that truly turn him into the cutthroat person that takes control of the Capitol in the future. Thanks to a combination of his experiences and some perceived betrayals (which are always worse from his point of view), as well as the mentorship of the Capitol’s sadistic head gamemaker, Doctor Gaul, Snow becomes much more ruthless and ambitious, and some of his actions towards the end of the book show just how evil he has become. It was also cool to see him embrace the philosophy around the Hunger Games, as well as developing a hatred of District 12 and certain other symbols and songs, all of which the character would carry with him to the main trilogy 60 years in the future. All of this analysis of Snow’s character formed a captivating heart to the story, and I liked the more villain-centric novel, even if this great antagonist did come across as a winy child at times. I will be intrigued to see more of the events that influenced Snow in the future, although I can appreciate that many others would prefer stories based around Collins’s protagonists.

The other major character that I have to discuss is Snow’s tribute from District 12, Lucy Gray Baird. Lucy Gray is an entertaining and likeable character who steps off the page right at the moment of her introduction and sticks in the mind. Lucy Gray is a very different tribute to that of Katniss from the main trilogy, being a singer and rebellious entertainer who effortlessly makes everyone fall in love with her, and who relies on cunning and underhanded tactics to survive rather than martial prowess. She also serenades both the reader and the other characters with a variety of different songs, and I quite enjoyed seeing several of the musical numbers she came up with, especially as you find out the origins of one of the musical pieces that appear in the original trilogy. Lucy Gray is the character who the reader is most drawn to, and you find yourself even hoping that Snow succeeds, as this will ensure Lucy Gray’s survival. Snow and Lucy Gray end up having a bit of an awkward romance, which on the surface seems nice, although you only see it from Snow’s point of view, and he becomes rather possessive of her in his own mind. I would have been interested to see Lucy Gray’s thoughts on Snow, as it could have really changed the whole dynamic of their relationship. Overall, though, Lucy Gray is a great new character, and the way her arc in this book ends really helps drive home how terrible Snow can be.

The thing that I think most people, especially established fans of The Hunger Games novels, will enjoy about this prequel novel is the substantial world building that Collins does. The author does an outstanding job showing off an early version of Panem, which is still recovering from the impacts of the war, and where control over the Districts is not yet complete. This is a rather different Capitol to what you see in the other The Hunger Games books, as there are no elaborate costumes, outrageous styles, strange cosmetic surgery or excessive luxuries. Instead it is a far more subdued Capitol, with less food, traumatised people and rubble still in the streets. This made for a curious contrast to what we see in the future books, and it was interesting to see the differences and similarities. There are also some exciting flashbacks to the war itself from the memory of Snow, and it was cool to learn a little more about that. Naturally, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes contains a lot of foreshadowing to the events of the original Hunger Games trilogy, and fans will enjoy seeing historical views of certain key events, locations and people.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this world building is the author’s exploration of the early Hunger Games and how they took place. These Games are very different to the elaborate affairs shown in the original trilogy. Up until this point the Hunger Games are rather basic, with the tributes simply thrown into an abandoned sports arena with a bunch of weapons. There are some great comparisons between these more basic games and the games that we are more familiar with, such as the way that the tributes are treated, as rather than the luxurious train with all the fancy food that Katniss and Peeta travelled in, the tributes for these Hunger Games arrive starved and injured in a livestock train. This is also the games where they start to experiment with some of the elements that are recognisable from the main games, such as having a mentor, brief interviews with a Flickerman (in this case, Lucky Flickerman, the local news weatherman and amateur magician), gambling and sponsors. It was really cool to see the origins of these ideas, and why they were implemented, and it makes for a truly fascinating addition to the book. Collins also really dives into the philosophy behind the Games, and why the leaders of the Capitol were so eager for them to succeed and why they believed that they helped control the Districts. The origin of the Games is also revealed, as well as some of the key players, and I think it served as an invaluable piece of this universe’s lore. I quite liked learning more about the early days of the Hunger Games, and I imagine that a lot of readers will love to find out how such a terrible event came to pass.

The actual Hunger Games that took place in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was a shorter and more barebones affair than what we have seen before. The tributes are fighting in an actual sporting arena, rather than a terraformed zone, and most of them spend the time hiding in the tunnels. Due to the fact that we are seeing it from Snow’s point of view, and because the arena only has a couple of cameras that only cover a fraction of the area, there are a lot of periods of inactivity and blank time, where the reader has no idea what is going on. This made for a much more disrupted experience, and while it was interesting to see the games unfold from the outside (something we saw a little bit of in the movie, but not in the books), it was nowhere as exciting as it could have been. That being said, there are still some really cool moments of child murder, and I did like seeing the mentor’s role in winning the games. The way in which the games came to an end was also rather clever, and it played into the events occurring outside with Snow. While it could have been longer, more exciting and perhaps more intense, this was still a fun part of the novel, and I look forward to seeing more fights to the death in any future Hunger Games novels Collins writes.

As I mentioned above, I ended up listening to the audiobook version of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes rather than grab a physical copy, and I am rather glad that I did, as it proved to be a great way to enjoy this book. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes audiobook is narrated by Santino Fontana and has a run time of just over 16 hours. This was a rather extensive run time for a Hunger Games novel; it was around five hours longer than any of the previous audiobooks in the series. That being said, I was able to get through this audiobook in a rather short period of time, and I found myself really engaged by this format, as it helped explore all the elements of this earlier version of Panem. Santino Fontana proved to be a very good narrator for this novel and he does an excellent job bringing the book’s large host of characters to life. The various voices he does fit the characters rather well, and I thought that his narration helped to highlight how horrible Snow could be at times. I also liked how Fontana’s narration worked with the multiple songs that Collins featured throughout the novel, and his spoken version of them sounded rather cool. As a result, I would definitely recommend the audiobook version of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes to people interested in checking this book out, as it was a wonderful format to enjoy this great story with.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes was a curious and unique new addition to The Hunger Games franchise, which I thought turned out to be a rather good read. Collins ended up writing an intriguing, character-based narrative that showed a new side to the main antagonist of her original trilogy. While this book is not without its flaws, I had a wonderful time reading it, and once I got into its plot I had a hard time putting it down. Ideal for those fans of the previous Hunger Games novel, this book should make for an interesting movie in the future, and I am planning to grab any future novels from Collins set in this universe.

Waiting on Wednesday – The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Welcome to my weekly segment, Waiting on Wednesday, where I look at upcoming books that I am planning to order and review in the next few months and which I think I will really enjoy.  I run this segment in conjunction with the Can’t-Wait Wednesday meme that is currently running at Wishful Endings. Stay tuned to see reviews of these books when I get a copy of them. In this week’s Waiting on Wednesday entry, I look at the young adult novel that I am most excited to read next year, the upcoming prequel to Suzanne Collins’s epic The Hunger Games series, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes Cover.jpg

For those of you who have been living under a literary and cinematic rock for the last 10 years, The Hunger Games books were a trilogy of extremely popular young adult dystopian novels. Starting in 2008 with The Hunger Games and followed up with 2009’s Catching Fire and 2010’s Mockingjay, The Hunger Games books followed the adventures of protagonist Katniss Everdeen in Panem, the nation that formed in the ruins of North America. Katniss, a sixteen-year-old girl from District 12, is forced to compete in the titular Hunger Games, a yearly spectacle that sees 24 teens from the 12 districts fight to the death in an elaborate arena for the amusement of the Capitol. The Hunger Games are a designated punishment for the districts after their defeat in a brutal civil war by the Capitol 74 years before. The books are pretty amazing, and they were quickly adapted into a series of four extremely popular movies, resulting in a huge following for The Hunger Games franchise.

As a result, I think that it is fair to say that The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, which is set to be released on 19 May next year, is probably going to be biggest young adult fiction release of 2020. Not only is this the first book that Collins has written since Mockingjay (with the exception of the children’s book Year of the Jungle) but it will return readers to the world of Panem and show a whole new side of this dystopian future.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.

I admit that this is a rather sparse synopsis that does not give a lot of plot details away. While I imagine that a much more comprehensive synopsis will be released in the future, the details released above, combined with information contained within the original three books, allows us to make a number of educated guesses about the plot of this book.

The most important detail contained within the synopsis is that this book will feature the 10th Hunger Games. To me, this is a very exciting development, and I am really glad that we are getting a prequel. While I am sure that Collins would be able to write a compelling sequel to The Hunger Games trilogy, I think that most readers will be keen to see an earlier adventure that contains a Hunger Games (I suppose a sequel could also contain a Hunger Games, but I do not think that would work). The whole battle royale concept of the Hunger Games is pretty darn compelling (I mean, if you don’t mind stories about fictional children murdering each other), and the idea of checking out some of the historical Hunger Games in any format is pretty awesome. I personally would love to see a book or movie based around the 50th Hunger Games, the second Quarter Quell games, in which fan-favourite character Haymitch Abernathy won, as I reckon you could get a pretty fun and dramatic story out of it, even if it is based on only a few pages from Catching Fire.

Focusing on the 10th Hunger Games is a very interesting choice from Collins for a number of reasons. First of all, this is going to be fairly early edition of the Hunger Games, and it will be intriguing to see how different it was during the initial games, and whether it is viewed with as much spectacle as the later games. As it is only 10 years removed from the end of the civil war, I imagine it might be viewed differently, and be less about entertaining the denizens of the Capitol. It also seems likely that Collins is going to explore the events of the civil war and the origins of the Hunger Games in a lot more detail in this book, especially as the events of the war are going to be in all the competitors’ living memory.

Another cool thing that I like about setting The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes during the 10th Hunger Games is that Collins will have to come up with a whole new group of characters from both the districts and the Capitol. Due to the 64-year gap between this book and The Hunger Games, none of the characters who were featured in the original trilogy are likely to appear in this book. The original series’ oldest character, Mags, won the 11th Hunger Games, so it is very unlikely we will see anything from her. We also won’t have President Snow as the book’s antagonist, as he was only 12 years old during the events of the 10th Hunger Games. Instead I reckon that the book’s antagonist will be the person who originally came up with the concept of the Hunger Games, which is a very tantalising prospect. This lack of known characters also means that there are no spoilers for who is going to win the 10th Hunger Games and how they are going to do it. While you would assume that whoever narrates this new book is going to be the eventual winner (if Collin’s uses the same first-person perspective that she used in the original trilogy), it is going to be very interesting to see how the winner ties into the future games and books and what adventures they are going to have. Perhaps they train Mags in the next book, or maybe they are responsible for Snow coming to power. It is going to be very exciting to find out.

I think that is enough theorising for now. Suffice to say, I am pretty thrilled and curious about this new entry in The Hunger Games franchise. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes has some real potential as a novel, and I cannot wait to see what Collins comes up with in this prequel. This is definitely one of my top anticipated reads for 2020 and I am really looking forward to returning to this dystopian universe.