The Phantom Menace introduced us to a young Anakin Skywalker. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince told us about the early life of Tom Riddle. Now another popular franchise will explore the origins of its greatest villain. The Hunger Games prequel novel will follow an ambitious and charismatic student who will one day rule Panem with a bloody smile. Based on the book’s first excerpt we don’t expect to feel much empathy for a young President Snow, though. The games once looked like they might fade away. He was there to help ensure it would be bigger than ever. It’s how he began his deadly climb to the top.
Entertainment Weekly has shared the first passage from Suzanne Collins’ upcoming novel The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The book will hit stores this spring, on May 19. All we knew about it before is it begins on the morning of the 10th Games’ reaping, 64 years before Katniss Everdeen volunteered as tribute. Now it has been revealed its protagonist is none other than Coriolanus Snow. He might seem like a curious choice to some. But based on this excerpt it seems Collins is set to explore the terrible world of The Hunger Games from the side of the villains. That doesn’t mean Snow will be a “hero” though, even if he is its main protagonist. This passage hints at his role in turning the games into the massive hit reality show it became in the Capital.
Who’s the star of the Hunger Games prequel? Read the exclusive first excerpt https://t.co/2zbjdqFRw5
— Entertainment Weekly (@EW) January 21, 2020
The story begins with a teenage Snow as a senior student at The Academy. He’s charming, friendly, and quick with a (strategic) compliment. Everyone likes him. He’s also been selected as one of the first ever mentors for the tributes. But while he is a child of privilege, he is lower on the totem pole than most of his classmates, and gets assigned to mentor the District 12 girl. It’s not what he wanted. Just like during Katniss and Peeta’s time, the lower Districts were always long shots to win.
But that’s one of the few similarities the 10th Games had with the event depicted in the original novels. This passage provides more backstory on the Capital’s child-killing show. We meet the man who created them, a morphling named Dean Casca Highbottom. A decade after he invented his televised yearly retribution for the districts’ rebellion, during an era Panem calls the “Dark Days,” Highbottom’s murder bowl is no hit with Capital viewers.
Back then tributes still fought without the heinous pageantry of pre-event interviews and shows. No one taught them survival or fighting skills. They simply fought to the death like anonymous combatants unprepared to battle. And that’s why most Panem residents “avoided” watching it. As this excerpt reveals, the challenge facing the games was “how to make it more engaging.”
The cold and inhuman tone of this passage is like experiencing the original books through the eyes of Effie. (At least the Effie of the first novel.) By reversing the perspective this could be a powerful story about how bad people exploit others. It could also explore the tools they employ to do so. That’s also exactly why this story also comes with more risk. It will require a deft hand from Collins. Unlike young Anakin Skywalker or even the orphaned Tom Riddle, we shouldn’t feel any empathy for young Coriolanus Snow.
It’s easy to imagine how someone as cunning and ruthless as him established himself during this time period. But there’s nothing redeeming about a rich young man using the oppression and murder of others to gain power, no matter how charming he once was. He might be the book’s protagonist, but he’s no hero.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.
Featured Image: Lionsgate