Book Review: ‘Catching Fire’ by Suzanne Collins

June 30, 2012 in Book Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

As soon as I finished the first book, The Hunger Games, I moved straight into the second of the series, Catching Fire.

I said in my review of The Hunger Games that my impression of it may have been tainted by the fact that had watched the film version first and had also watched Japan’s Battle Royale, which has a similar premise.

Catching Fire didn’t have to face such problems. I was sceptical at first because the core of the story is the Hunger Games itself, and I wondered how Collins could possibly squeeze out two more books that didn’t simply repeat what happened in the first. After all (spoiler for the first book ahead), didn’t Katniss and Peter win the darn thing already?

Well, those concerns were unfounded. In fact, Catching Fire completely breaks free of the parameters set by the first book and takes the series to a whole new level.

How does Collins do this? Well, for starters, she ups the ante on just about everything that made the first book good. I won’t reveal too much about the plot, but Collins finds a clever way to make the games “fresh”, from the manner in which the tributes are selected to the fascinating new characters and the innovative new battleground. Even the returning characters are given new angles as more is gradually revealed about each of them.

Collins also intensifies the relationships Katniss has with the two boys in her life, Peeta and Gale, adding more tension to the love triangle. It wasn’t my thing but could be appreciated my some readers.

The best part about it was how the story played out with a Harry Potter-esque mystery that does not get revealed until the very end. Some of it was rather predictable but I still came away impressed. The biggest compliment I can pay to the book is that it is not only better than The Hunger Games but also improves it by providing added context.

Of course, Collins still manages to infuse that addictive quality of her narrative style into the book as well. I breezed through this book by reading it any spare minute I had, and sometimes even when I’m not supposed to have the time. It’s not hard when every chapter ends on a mini cliffhanger and the writing is so easy to read.

I do, however, have two major complaints with Catching Fire. The first is that certain parts of the book felt a little drawn out, while others felt too condensed. Occasionally I got the feeling that there was an imbalance in the storytelling that needed to be addressed. The second complaint is how Collins botched the ending. After setting up the mystery so well all the way through, the book trips and falls flat on its face at the very end with an extremely rushed “unveil” and ends on a cliffhanger. The payoff after going through such an exhilarating ride turned out to be unexpectedly disappointing.

That said, it has forced me to jump immediately into the third and final book of the trilogy, Mockingjay, which I hope to finish and review soon.

4 out of 5