by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Catching Fire / 978-0-545-22724-7
In my review of "The Hunger Games", I noted that I thought this excellent series to be the best books I have ever read, and I enjoyed them so much that I rushed out and bought the audio books immediately after I finished reading the series.
"Catching Fire" continues very shortly after "The Hunger Games" ends, with Katniss settling uncomfortably into the life of a celebrity after returning home victorious from the hunger games. Although she is understandably pleased that her mother and sister are set for life (or, rather, set for HER life, as the victor's spoils run out after a victor's death), and she is happy to share her riches with the other serfs of her district, she also grapples understandably with ennui (now that she has no more school and no daily `job') and realistically with post traumatic stress disorder - Katniss is plagued with nightmares and survivor's guilt.
The love triangle that has developed between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale has now deepened into something dark and painful; the capitol leaders are intent on making it clear to Katniss that the part she played in the games, she will have to play for life, and it's fascinating how much Collins is able to convey that the victors are still, ultimately, slaves to the capitol - in some ways, it's hard to escape the feeling, as a reader, that the children who die in the arena are the "lucky" ones. The district serfs are serfs for life; they can be made at any time to fight to the death for the amusement of the capitol, and not even victory can save them from being nothing more than slaves.
Although it is true that "middle books" in series are often the most dark (think "Empire Strikes Back"), "Catching Fire" is, in some ways, a bright light in this series. Katniss and Peeta form a much stronger team this time around, as close friends instead of forced collaborators, and both are now put into a position where their strengths are allowed to really shine - Katniss blossoms as a truly efficient huntress; Peeta shines as a superb negotiator. Any lack of character interaction from the first book is strongly averted in "Catching Fire" - as readers, we are allowed to see the other victors from previous years, and to laugh at their gallows humor and cry as the scars of their souls are exposed.
"Catching Fire" is one of those rare sequels that - I think - will please both fans AND non-fans of the first book alike; everything that was beautiful and stunning about "The Hunger Games" is here again in full force, and anything that might have been lacking (from certain points of view) from the first book are deepened and fleshed out here.
~ Ana Mardoll
View all my reviews