A week ago I talked about how, after reading The Hunger Games Saga, I was left not feeling quite satisfied and more that a little hurt and cheated. As a way to work through my feelings I decided to do a series of reviews where the first three would be about the individual books, what I liked and what not, and a fourth one would delve into the details of why the story wasn't all that I'd hoped for. The first reviews will be clean of spoilers so everyone interested can read them. The last one will be an open discussion of the saga with no limitations, so if you want to participate and haven't read the books, I hope you are well in your way! Today feels like a perfect day to catch fire, don't you think?
With the second book Collins managed what very few authors do for me, she surprised me. No matter where I was, I could not stop myself from gasping pretty much every time Peeta opened his mouth, which means most every time I turned the page. Since I was expecting a completely different direction, one where the revolution was lead actively by Katniss (You can check my reason for this here), the turn of events really blindsided me, but let's go step by step.
The characters. Once again, we see the characters we know and we recognize them, they don't have drastic changes of heart and turn out to be different people from what we knew. They are consistent but there is... evolution, let's say. Some of them, like Peeta, grow as a consequence of the turn of events; others start to show the cracks that will be their undoing in the future. Then there's Haymitch who manages to keep an unrealistic balance between being a drunk when nobody really needs him, yet pull himself together when the times for action come. This is the real fault within the array of diverse, amazing characters. All of them are who they told us they were and to some degree of believability, except Haymitch that is. How is it that one person so addicted to a substance manages to get clean when needed be, and is functional to such a degree? Utterly impossible. Yet, the poor, old victor is so pitiable and likable, I was rooting for him and loved his acridness. The silent exchanges with Katniss and how much they understand each other was one of my favorite things of the whole saga. I guess Collins has a talent to write lovable villains because I ended up cheering for Johana and Finnick with passion. Snow is the real bad guy of the story and even him is a great villain. He isn't as complex as the rest of the cast and there are some of his decisions I still don't understand, but he doesn't rub his hands and laughs in a 'mwahahaha' kind of way.
Technicalities. One again Collins uses the first person narrative as a weapon against us, only revealing tidbits of information. This time Katniss--and with her, us--knows there is more than the eye can meet, there are secrets being withhold but she just doesn't care and ignores the signs causing us to dread the outcome. Still there's not enough for us to predict the next turn in the story. In Catching Fire, however, there is much repetition of the backstory for the benefit of the new reader. That breaks the fluency of the story and distracted me from the images forming in my head. If the first time sounded unnatural for Katniss to re-explain herself the way she lives in, the second time is just atrocious and impossible to pass down. If you are talking to a new reader, include all that information on the blurb, so the old reader can lose himself in the story seamlessly.
Now to the overview. Catching Fire starts moving the story into the heavy stuff that we will be dealing with later on and it does it without effort. We can't feel the floor moving under us until it is too late and that's why I think it is so enjoyable. We meet a big array of new characters that are every bit as complex and interesting as the main characters and the verbal exchanges become more intense because of all the subtext that is implied. Katniss is too fragile for my taste, for a hunter she can't give a step without hurting herself. Not only that, mentally she starts to show clear signs of strain, always feeling guilty for everything that goes wrong in the world. I'm not saying it isn't believable because any sixteen-year-old would be mentally unstable after going through all those things, but it just doesn't match the idea that I had of this strong young woman who was to lead the world to freedom. But we'll talk more about that when reviewing Mockingjay. In the mean time, read!