The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
It was the middle quarantine and I was running out of new books to read when I found The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. It is the prequel to the Hunger Games trilogy following the story of a young President Snow. For me, this book was a return to a story I loved the first time around and I was thrilled to have more content. I wrote a full review earlier this year but It follows a young Snow’s efforts to gain power and social status. That opportunity arises when district children are chosen to become mentors to the kids competing in the Hunger Games but unexpected complications arise. Since Panem is supposed to be a future America, I found it fascinating to read a story set toward the beginning of the existence of the Hunger Games. The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is one of my favorite books of 2020 because of the fresh take on a well loved story mixed with the writing talents of Suzanna Collins. If you have not read this book yet I would highly recommend checking it out.
I know it’s a bit problematic to review the second book in a trilogy, but in my mind Shorefall was, without a doubt, one of the best books of 2020. In the first book, Foundryside, which I reviewed back in 2019, Bennett introduced readers to the magical but deeply divided city of Tevanne, a ruthless capitalist metropolis run on a unique form of magic. In Tevanne, the mercantile empires that run the world have discovered a language that lets them speak to, and command, inanimate objects, rewriting the world however they choose. Sancia Grado is a denizen of foundryside, a poor sector of the city where many are denied access to the education needed to speak to the world. She’s also a thief, one who relies on illegal, and dangerous, amateur magic to steal from the powerful. When a heist goes horribly wrong, Sancia is left in possession of a millennia old,
possibly cursed, and surprisingly talkative artifact that her former employers will do anything to get their hands on. To survive she’ll have to assemble a crew of unlikely heroes, most of whom can’t be trusted, and break into some of the most impenetrable citadels of magical industry ever created. Book two is a triumphant return to that magical world of thieves and robber barons, one that sees Sancia at the heart of a fledgling information revolution. Not all is as it seems though, and with change on the horizon the team faces heists that are more difficult than ever, dangerous enemies, and unlikely friends, all while trying to avoid the awakening of a (temporarily) murdered demigod. Even more so than Foundryside, Shorefall is a thrilling, funny, and profoundly human exploration of the power of hope and what it means to build on the ruins of what was lost.
The Hand on the Wall
My favorite mystery book of 2020 was The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson. This is the third book in the Truly Devious series, a series that follows the story of Stevie Bell’s efforts to solve the Elingham mystery. The Hand on the Wall is a great continuation of the story the first two books built. More tragedies take place at Ellingham Academy and the school is on the verge of being shut down, can Stevie solve the mystery before it’s too late? The amazing thing about this series is that I think the quality of each book remains consistent throughout the entire series! This is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat trying to guess the solution to the mystery. It is a fun mix of old school mysteries and something new!
I went into this book with no expectations and I was pleasantly surprised! All the Stars and Teeth is about Princess Amora, destined to inherit the kingdom of Visidia, until her powers get the best of her. She meets the pirate Bastian and strikes a deal with him for another chance to prove she is worthy of her inheritance. This is a very original story full of twists and turns. The story starts one way but, after a series of discoveries, ended up somewhere I never would have expected it to go. The characters are relatable and the world they fill is vibrant! Each character brings something unique to the book. One of my favorite parts of this book was the setting. The idea of a kingdom spread out on islands connected through magic is interesting and something I had never seen before. This book is something new to the young adult fantasy stage. I would highly recommend this book for fans of adventures on the high seas and fantasy.