Roughly one month after completing The Hunger Games, I decided to continue with Suzanne Collins' 2nd installment in her 3-part series. Although giving the first book a 4 out of 5, I admitted I was somewhat disappointed. As a result, I didn't begin book 2 immediately. Looking back, I wish I'd read Catching Fire sooner because I found it to be equally entertaining and slightly more unpredictable.
The story kicks off shortly after the end of book 1. Katniss must slowly come to terms with the fact that she is a rallying point for many citizens of Panem. By committing one specific act near the end of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen took a stand against the Capitol...without even realizing it. As a result, President Snow makes a personal visit to Katniss' new home in Victor's Village. Snow is briefly mentioned in the first book, but we really get a chance to see just how evil he is in Catching Fire.
In short, he's incredibly displeased and issues a rather daunting ultimatum for Katniss, which I won't spoil here. We get to know Gale even more as a character, Peeta and Haymitch return, along with several new characters who I found interesting and effective. Finnick, Johanna, and Beetee are a few of the fresh new faces for Catching Fire. All three have intriguing backstories, yet they refrain from stealing the spotlight of other fan favorites.
I won't give everything away here, but let's just say this installment surprised me much more than book 1. Some of the tropes are familiar; however, I was still pleased with the payoff more often than not. There's one very surprising twist midway through the book that I truly didn't see coming. "Cruel" and "despicable" are just a couple of the words that come to mind. Overall, the book manages to keep the same dark tone as the original. The characters are again one of the strongest points of the series. Katniss remains as brooding as ever with an even more somber outlook for her future.
I never realized it while reading The Hunger Games, but Collins true purpose becomes indisputable throughout Catching Fire. The entire series is anti-war, anti-violent, and pro-peace. Despite the countless acts of violence, Collins boldly states her claim that war can never lead to true peace.
Catching Fire ends on somewhat of a cliffhanger and I have to say, I felt much more compelled to read book 3 after finishing this time. I began Mockingjay almost immediately and will have a review up soon.
Ultimately, Catching Fire was ever so slightly stronger due to its ability to surprise on several different occasions; that, combined with the series' staples, gives it a slightly higher overall score. I can't wait to see how Katniss' story ends.
4.5 out of 5.