Katniss Everdeen may be out of the Games, but she's not out of trouble. With the threat of retribution hanging over her head, can Katniss convince Panem that her 'act of rebellion' was really 'true love' and, even if she can, will that really make a difference? Or does President Snow have other plans?
Firstly, I enjoyed this book a lot more than the first one. Whilst I really liked the first book, I felt that Suzanne Collins has grown more as a writer with this sequel. The plot twists felt more skilled, the characters more real, and the writing felt tighter and better technically.
One thing that I really admire about Collins is her choice of protagonist. Katniss was not a likeable person in the first book, and she is no better in this book. She is extremely self-centred and narrow-minded most of the time, and even her selfless acts end up having far-reaching consequences. Katniss has an ability to see beyond the moment, and bad things happen because of this. I am glad that Collins seemed to realise the need for Katniss to suffer for her choices, and not smooth her path and have her unable to do wrong. She has grown a lot from the first book (and it would have been unrealistic for her not to), but she is still deeply flawed as a person.
Circumstances have made her that way, sure. It doesn't mean that I have to like her. Actually, the fact I dislike Katniss and still enjoyed the book despite being stuck in her head through the whole thing says a lot about Collins's skill as a writer.
Collins does not flinch from making Katniss an unlikeable protagonist or from making her suffer consequences, nor does she flinch away from brutality. Like the first book, people die. There are no last minute miracles, no death speeches or dramatic last words. These deaths are visceral, sudden and final. There are no times for goodbyes.
More was made of the Gale/Peeta love triangle in this book than the last book, but it is still not the main focus. I enjoy the fact that it is more of a background subplot, as it seems romance is a big theme in a lot of young adult novels. The way it is handled in Catching Fire
is quite refreshing.
The plot of Catching Fire
is filled with twists, turns and secrets. The way the information is kept from the reader does not feel contrived at all, as other characters are hiding the information from Katniss. When the plot twists are revealed, especially the big one at the end, everything leading up to that point makes sense. I thought that the fact the plot was a lot more complex than the much more simple first book, and the fact it was handled well, shows how much Collins has grown as a writer. :)
The best thing about Catching Fire
, however, was the introduction of new characters. I loved meeting the other victors, as each of them had distinct and strong personalities. In particular, I loved Finnick and Johanna. Both of them seemed like quite shallow characters on the surface, but as the book went on, they became deeper, with many layers. Finnick being a bit of a sex god certainly helped, though that would have been nothing without his brilliant characterisation. ;)
All in all, I really enjoyed this book. I was expecting it to be rather lacklustre (as is often the case with middle books in trilogies), but it certainly defied my expectations. I would recommend this to anyone who has read the first book, even if you might have found that book a little disappointing. You might be pleasantly surprised by this one. :)