Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After thoroughly enjoying The Hunger Games I had high expectations for reading the sequel, Catching Fire. The Hunger Games ends with an unresolved love triangle and the hint of a looming revolution and I was curious to see how the next book would progress.
The novel mostly follows the aftermath from the first games as Katniss and Peeta embark on their victory tour and new life in the victor’s village. Katniss’ trick with the berries has been perceived as an act of defiance against the Capitol, inciting revolution in some districts. President Snow threatens to kill Katniss and her family unless she somehow quells the rebellion by keeping up the pretence of being madly in love with Peeta, who doesn’t need to feign his adoration for her. Throughout most of part one she is torn between following President Snow’s instructions to protect her family and trying to run away, and also between her feelings for Gale and Peeta. There is a fair amount of self-absorption and wallowing on her part, but it isn’t too drawn out. I like that Katniss is neither a passive damsel in distress nor an indestructible bad-ass. She is clever and brave but she has plenty of weaknesses to overcome and does not always do what is morally right, which makes her more relatable and believable.
When more brutal peacekeepers are sent in to keep district 12 under control, Katniss reluctantly resolves to stay and fight against them and incite an uprising against the Capitol. Just when you are expecting a story of revolution to follow, Collins throws a spanner in the works by introducing the announcement of the Quarter Quell- a special Hunger Games to mark its 75th anniversary, in which the tributes will be existing victors. So Katniss and Peeta end up back in the arena facing opponents with much more strength and experience. This time around, the arena is much more interesting, with many clever obstacles and twists and turns. Some great new characters are introduced-Johanna, Finnick, Mags, Beetee and Wiress, so you come to know the other tributes better than those from book one and root for them too. It is somewhat unrealistic that Katniss barely does any killing herself and that she and Peeta manage to stay alive despite facing opponents much older, cleverer and stronger than themselves. It seems a little too contrived how some of the characters just accidentally die and how Katniss just happens to find out about the force field and keeps thinking about it, when it later turns out to be significant. But despite this it was still an exciting read with plenty of surprising, intriguing, funny and poignant moments. I enjoyed this section of the book more than the first two parts as it is filled with action and suspense, and it is a shame that it doesn’t last longer.
It was disappointing that Cinna does not feature much in the book, as I really like his character. Another minor complaint was that I became bored with all the beauty procedures Katniss goes through with the prep team and the endless descriptions of the outfits she wears and found myself scanning over them, eager to get to the action. However, the latter half of the book and the cliffhanger ending made up for that, and overall I really enjoyed it and am eager to read the final instalment: Mockingjay.
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