||Like its predecessors, this book is very well
written, which makes up for the awkwardness of some of the plot, and the
understandably depressing state of mind of the main character. After all
she's been through, it's normal that she would be questioning herself
more. Fortunately, the intermittent action sequences kept the story
Unlike the previous two books, this one had real ups
and downs. The ups were very exciting, and reminiscent of those books,
while the downs felt a lot more depressing, which made for a more
difficult read. Fortunately, the writing was superb throughout, which
eased the transition from exciting parts of the book to those that could
have dragged on a lot more than they actually did. I hope the movie
version of The Hunger Games didn't influence my mood when reading the
conclusion to the trilogy.
The novel picks up very soon after Katniss was
extracted from the arena at the end of Catching Fire, as she wakes up in
District 13, under the care of her mother and Prim and the others who
escaped the bombing of District 12. It was Gale who led the survivors to
safety, where they were picked up by hovercraft from District 13.
District 13 has lived for the last 75 years underground, adhering to
rigid schedules, with almost no joy in their lives. The question to
be asked is whether it is worth living under such conditions? I suppose
it is living in the hopes that revolution will come and they will be
free of the threat from the Capitol one day. And that day finally does
arrive in this book. Throughout, I kept waiting for Katniss to wonder if
President Coin was any better than President Snow of the Capitol, as
her methods do seem to be almost as bad as his. But they are desperate,
after all, and her rigidness probably kept everyone alive.
After her defiance in both of the arenas, Katniss has
become a symbol for the hope the districts have been sorely lacking.
Although she wants nothing to do with it at first, running away to find
hidey-holes in closets, retreating to her hospital room, she eventually
decides to be their Mockingjay, their symbol. Peeta has been captured by
the Capitol, after all, and is being tortured, brainwashed, and used in television
broadcasts to have her surrender.
But every time she thinks that maybe the Capitol isn't
so bad, she finds out otherwise. Cinna designed the suit she wears while
filming promotional material for the rebels. While she is terrible at
scripted lines, putting her in a war zone allows her spontaneity to
shine through, and she is brilliant. In district 8, she visits a field
hospital, which brings hope to the rebels there. But her visit is timed
(accidentally?) with a bombing raid by the Capitol, which destroys the
hospital. She and Gale take up their bows with the special exploding
arrows, and take down a couple of the hovercraft, disobeying orders to
get out of the war zone. It was that kind of action that the author did
a terrific job at describing, especially since Katniss always thinks she
will be getting in trouble for doing it.
As with the previous novels, it is the small details
that really make the book a joy to read. Things like Prim growing up
enough to help in the hospital and tell Katniss that she could ask for
anything in return for being District 13's Mockingjay. Like getting out
to hunt again. Unfortunately, I much prefer the Katniss who knows what
she needs to do, constantly analyzing the situation and making active
choices, to the one we get here about half the time. She spends much too
much time feeling uncertain and lost, though that's probably very
natural. She spends a lot of the book angry at Gale for no reason, which
is probably also very natural. Wouldn't it have been extraordinary to
have them work together more, though, and be a real team? Though he
helped her through everything, they never got as close as she did to
Once again, like in the hunger games arenas, the war
is a reality-TV contest. Not only are battles fought in the streets of
the districts, but people battle it out on the airwaves. Haymich is
relegated to a TV councilor, who turns out to be not all that useful,
since Katniss ignores him most of the time. Every time Peeta shows up on
screen, Katniss knows that he is being used against her. He even speaks
out of turn at one point, warning District 13 that a wave of bombers is
coming for them.
The bombing was one of the few interludes that really
had me riveted. I really, really enjoyed the conversations between Prim
and Katniss, and the descriptions of Buttercup (Katniss found him on a
visit to the ruins of District 12) were so smack-on that the author must
have a cat! The single setting of the bomb shelter could have been
boring, but was anything but!
When it becomes clear that Katniss will go crazy
unless Peeta is taken from the clutches of the Capitol, a rescue mission
is mounted, from which she is excluded. When she sees him, he tries to
kill her, so suddenly that even her well-honed survival instincts don't
kick in. He has been brainwashed by the Capitol, in a manner that seems
entirely consistent with what we've seen so far in these books.
They try to rehabilitate him, and I wonder at the
effort they spend on him. Is it just for Katniss? When the districts
were nearly united, she became more of a liability, so why did Coin do
it? So she could send Peeta out to kill the threat to her leadership
while in the field?
The assault on the mountain stronghold in District 2
is the next real climax of this book, as she and Gale travel there to
aid in the assault. Katniss decides Peeta is dead to her, so turns to
Gale to fill that void, and they do a lot of kissing (it's vague if they
do any more). But Gale turns out to be a lot less forgiving than she is,
and a lot more mean in thinking up ways to hurt his enemies -she's been
tempered by the Hunger Games in more ways than one. At this point, I
kept waiting for somebody to ask how they differed from Snow in the
tactics they were proposing. That admonition didn't occur until much
later on than I expected. They actually bombed the top of the mountain,
until pieces of it crashed down in an avalanche that sealed up all the
exits, trapping the people inside, except for one train line, which
Katniss insisted be kept open. When the train finally appears, hours
later, she presents herself to the survivors, all of whom were actively
fighting against her. The person whom she addresses decides not to shoot
her, but someone else does, which was a shock.
Cinna's Mockingjay suit, however, stopped the bullet
from penetrating too far, and she survives, but ends up back in the
hospital in District 13. By now, she is completely useless to President
Coin, because the war is over everywhere except in the Capitol. So they
round up all the survivors of previous Hunger Games, including a
somewhat stable Peeta (thanks to healing ideas from Prim), and send them
to the front lines, to pose for the cameras, and maybe do a little
fighting, if the opportunity presents itself. Like Katniss, I got the
feeling that Coin wouldn't be too sorry if her Mockingjay ended up dying
then and there.
And she almost does.
The third part of the book was the least interesting,
unfortunately, even though the author wrote it well enough that it never
became boring. We get to see all of the people Katniss cares about
disappear, one by one, or sometimes in groups. I quite liked Lieutenant
Boggs, her commander for the missions, who gets killed when they trigger
various "pods", which can be filled with anything from tracker-jackers
to machine gun fire to a giant wave of poisonous powder, which takes out
more people. I don't remember the pods from the arenas, but both Katniss
and Finnick remember them. Her group, now separated from the rest of the
rebel army, winds its way through the underground passages of the
Capitol, always making its way closer to President Snow. As usual, Katniss doesn't really have a plan beyond the immediate. Peeta
doesn't consider himself trustworthy, so wants
them to kill him, as he often can't control his implanted rage at her.
Her camera crew, the twins Castor and Pollux, follow her down every
path, even as they have to abandon their gear at some point, and one of
them dies. But they all show what she inspires in others, even though
she doesn't believe it herself, a reluctant hero.
By the time they get to Snow's mansion, the rebels
have also arrived. This is rather disappointing, but it becomes
necessary in order for Katniss to really lose everything she ever loved.
A group of children act as a human shield to the mansion, and a
hovercraft releases dozens of parachutes to them, as in the Games. Some
explode, causing the rebel medics to rush in to the carnage, after which
the rest of the parachutes blow up. One of the rebel medics, of course,
if Prim, and both Katniss and Peeta are badly burned in the process.
The capture of Snow and his mansion are done off-screen,
so to speak. But she gets to meet him when she wakes up, after her burn
treatments are completed. It begs to wonder, though, why Coin didn't
just let Katniss die from her burns. I guess once somebody saw her, Coin
was stuck with her, and they were forced to do everything they could to
save her, probably to Coin's chagrin.
Katniss is totally useless after this, until she meets
with Snow again. Snow voices the opinions that made sense of things for
me in the attack on the children. I was wondering how it was possible
that a bunch of rebel medics could have been waiting so close to the
front lines, when we've not seen them before, and how Prim could have
been with them. Snow raises the suspicion that Coin did this, to get rid
of the threat that was Katniss.
Indeed, the brief glimpse of the new world we see
makes it look just as unlikable as the old one. When Katniss is given
the arrow to kill Snow, I was certain she would kill Coin, instead -and
I was right (Snow is killed by a mob, afterwards). Katniss is sent to
solitary confinement, and though she tries to kill herself, is
unsuccessful. It seems that a great many people didn't like Coin,
because Katniss is acquitted (mental insanity), against all odds (and
this seems a stretch to me, too), and sent to live in District 12.
Should the districts be renamed, now, with real names?
The book could have used another chapter of
denouement, because it was over so very quickly. More of her
rehabilitation could have been nice, as we only get a whir of
information when Peeta starts to heal her, as much as that is possible.
Gale has stayed away, now that he believes his usefulness is over, after
failing to protect her family. Katniss doesn't even have to choose Peeta,
then, but it becomes official in the epilog.
don't see how the book could have ended any differently, as this
dystopian world had to come crashing down somehow, and war is never
pretty. The author doesn't shy away from any gore or pain, and we get
deep into Katniss' thoughts. They were very grim and depressing, so it
was fortunate that they were so well written.