The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is the second instalment of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins and picks up where the first book left off with the narrating character Katniss Everdeen moving into the Victor’s Village in District Twelve having won the 74th Hunger Games alongside Peeta Mellark.
Catching Fire started off at a very awkward pace. Because it was trying to fill in the gaps of what had been happening since the end of the first book, the narrative felt choppy and awkward. In the first novel, Katniss was an interesting character to read about – and she still is in places of this novel – but she seemed to have lost some of her personality. She, as a narrator, is meant to be a guide through the story yet she felt out of place – she didn’t seem to be the best person to be telling the story of what happened to her and the others.
I felt disconnected from the story for a great chunk of the novel – the only place during the first few chapters being the death of an old man which is partially her fault. That brought the book to life again – even though President Snow had already made his threat and was making it known to Katniss that she had a lot of weight on her shoulders, it only truly became known as an actual threat at that event.
This was the novel that began to dishearten me in terms of relationships between characters. The love triangle that starts to grow between Katniss, Peeta and Gale just seemed completely pointless – the story would have been just as good without the relationships. If they had all been friends it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference – you can still have the threat of losing someone when they are just a friend, you can love your friends just as much as a boyfriend or girlfriend. It all felt forced.
There were only a few redeeming features to this book:
- The introduction of Finnick Odair (and his BAMF mentor Mags);
- Tick Tock – Wiress is the only one with a logically thinking brain;
- Katniss manages to retain some strength as a survivor.
Finnick quickly became one of my favourite characters of the series – despite Katniss’ mistrust of him and his smarmy attitude sometimes, it was nice to see a character that just oozed charisma in the face of danger. He was a breath of fresh air in a novel that seemed so dry and barren. That was added to by his dedication to protecting his mentor, Mags. This old woman was an angel – she was smart and brave and her death was a very sad moment. She knew that she wouldn’t get out of the Games alive and sacrificed herself so that the people who did stand a chance could.
I enjoyed the puzzle in this story, the subtle hint of the true identity of the arena. I figured it out pretty quickly, but waited patiently for any sign that I was correct – I didn’t expect it to be in the form of the oddball character, Wiress. She was disregarded so quickly because of her mental state, but she proved that she was still brilliantly smart and logical.
Finally, Katniss finally seemed like the character I rooted for in the first book when she got back into the arena. She adapted, she got prepared and she fought for her survival in a new way. I loved reading her thought processes during the trials – seeing her vulnerable during one of the most terrifying moments I’ve read throughout this series was intriguing and well paced. And of course she was countered perfectly by Peeta’s inability to do anything. It felt as though Collins’ remembered halfway through the novel that Peeta didn’t really stand much of a chance during the first story so gave him a reason to be pretty useless the second time around by electrocuting him not even an hour into the Game.
The ending of the novel was heavy and did make me want to continue reading straight away which is one of the few things that Collins’ did right. Overall, I did enjoy the novel but there were too many points which made me feel frustrated with it (the pace, the relationships, the stupidity to name a few). It’s a good novel and I recommend it, but don’t put your expectations too high.