Saturday, January 8, 2011

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Warning first. There is no possible way to discuss Catching Fire without spoilers for The Hunger Games, so be prepared. I will mention, by necessity, some things that occur in the first book of the trilogy. For those that merely want to know if it was worth it after my great review of The Hunger Games, I can unequivocally say Yes. I stayed up until 4am reading this book and was eager to start the final book in the trilogy as soon as I finished. Now, onward and upward…

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games, Book 2
Genre: Young Adult - Dystopia
Release Date: September 1, 2009

After the shattering events of The Hunger Games Katniss finds herself in even more danger. When she and her fellow District 12 tribute, Peeta took a stand at the end of the last Games, forcing the Capitol to choose between two victors or none, they inadvertently became the symbols, and heart, of the brewing rebellion. Naturally this paints a bulls-eye on them for the Capitol. They must navigate a continuously more difficult field to ensure the safety of not only themselves, but their families.

As you may remember, when I finished The Hunger Games I was practically salivating for the rest of the story. I was beyond thankful that I had both of the next two books available to me, and didn’t have to wait a year (or more) to get to the end.

Katniss hardly has a moment to rest, and begin to deal with the trauma that her bout in the Hunger Games had left her with before she found herself within the Capitol’s sight again. The victory tour of the twelve Districts is a yearly, and necessary, event she has no choice in. She’s hardly looking forward to it, but when she comes home to discover President Snow in her home with barely veiled threats, her future looms before her as a terrifying thing.

Now Katniss finds herself with the task of convincing the people of the Districts that she has never had an intention of standing against the powerful Capitol, but that she and Peeta are desperately in love – and it was that which caused her to make that heart-stopping choice. Not only that, but she must convince the President himself, a person that has Katniss’s death in his eyes, a thing even she can see.

Catching Fire is a rocketing-fast, nail-biting, action-filled, heart-wrenching sequel to The Hunger Games. I was immediately drawn into the story, and it did not let me go until I finished, at four in the morning. There’s a wonderful blend of action, world building, and increased character growth and depth. I simply couldn’t get enough of it.

The pacing here is another thing that’s absolutely fantastic. The tension continues to build, with hardly any let up, and at the same time doesn’t sacrifice anything of the character development. The plot is tightly woven and continues to build on the events and machinations only hinted at in The Hunger Games. And I’ll freely admit to being shocked, truly shocked, a few times in the story. There are few things that I love more than a novel that can keep me in suspense.

The love triangle, that appears to be somewhat necessary in young-adult novels these days, is more deeply explored in Catching Fire and while I’m not generally a fan of this particular trope, I have to admit that it’s handled really well here. It’s not only believable, it’s understandable. One of the things I loved was seeing Katniss explore her own feelings and struggling to come to terms with them. While she cares, deeply, she’s not the most emotional person. She is eminently practical and tries to apply that to what she feels, not always with the greatest results. It’s when she’s not thinking about things that I think we get the clearest glimpse into her heart. So while there were times that I wanted to smack her and tell her to stop trying to rationalize everything, I still completely stood by her while she worked through all these very difficult feelings and thoughts.

In The Hunger Games the cast of players was relatively few. Not so here, there are a multitude of secondary characters that we’re introduced to in this novel. Many of them felt like they deserved their own stories told, some were only around shortly, but each one felt fully developed with a complete history and personality. We also revisit those that we first met in The Hunger Games, learning more and yet still left with questions. One of my favorite new characters is Finnick, whom I couldn’t help but love and hope to see much more of.

All in all, Catching Fire more than lived up to my expectations. In fact, it blew them away. I was immediately, once again, enthralled in the world Suzanne Collins created and, upon finishing, couldn’t wait to delve into the final book in the trilogy.

Grade: A

Book Link | Amazon | Kindle | nook | kobo | Borders eBook | Sony | Book Depository | Scholastic Press

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