First Published: 2009
Pages: 472 (Paperback)
Series: The Hunger Games #2
KATNISS EVERDEEN SURVIVED THE HUNGER GAMES.
NOW THE CAPITOL WANTS REVENGE.
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are still alive. Katniss should be relieved, but now there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol – a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.
As the nation watches Katniss and Peeta, the stakes are higher than ever. One false move and the consequences will be unimaginable.
Catching up on some reviews that, for various reasons, I never got round to writing in 2013.
Going to be a brief review because I appear to have lost my notes on this book.
Catching Fire has the unenviable job of being the middle book of a trilogy, more about introducing the main themes and getting characters to where they need to be for book three than in telling its own story. It’s also the follow up book to a story that didn’t need a sequel in the first place. The Hunger Games worked fine as a standalone book and the very set up – a yearly televised event – makes it difficult to imagine a sequel that isn’t in some ways just a rewrite of the first book. But, despite both those things, I again really enjoyed Catching Fire as a fun holiday read. In fact it’s by far my favourite of the three books.
The world building hasn’t improved. Which is disappointing as the Victory Tour of the districts that opens Catching Fire would really have been the time to do it. But there’s several new characters, including one of my favourite characters in the entire series, Johanna. It’s also the book with the least amount of time spent on the inane love-triangle plot, so it’s got that going for it.
The story is more evenly split up this time too, with much more time in District 12 at the beginning to get a feel for the characters, their relationships, and the danger the Capitol actually poses for them. This was something that was missing a bit from book one, where Katniss was bundled on a train almost straight away. And it was something that was important to do to lay down the foundations and set up the revolution plot lines for this and the final book. But it did mean that the actual Hunger Games were condensed down into the back half of the book.
And there’s a twist to the games this year! Apparently its a Quarter Quell, a special Hunger Games that takes place every 25 years, but was never mentioned in the original book. And the special twist for this quarter quell is… the tributes will all be former winners of the games! Yeah, it’s pretty contrived, and the reasoning works a lot better in the film than in the book. But, as arsepulls go, it’s not actually too bad. It works and it works well – giving us a crowd of older, more deadly, more developed, and more interesting tributes for the games (again, Johanna is clearly the best) compared to the mostly bland and forgettable children of book one. I do think Collins missed a trick in shaking up the dynamics though, a Katniss/Haymitch District 12 would have been way cooler than a replay of Katniss/Peeta.
Still, with the stakes a bit higher this time around, and with an underground revolutionary movement beginning to brew with Katniss as its figurehead (even if Katniss is too selectively dumb to really notice), Catching Fire is easily my favourite book in the series.