Catching Fire is a riveting sequel to Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. The book takes us deeper into the aftermath of surviving the games. It also successfully explores the torturous nightmares of such a disturbing place that make the terror unforgettable. Katniss manages to pull the berries’ stunt that miraculously managed to keep her and Peeta Mellark alive. However, she faces the threat of losing her loved ones when President Snow realizes that some people have taken her survival as an act of defiance and a signal to rebel against the controlling Capitol. Faced with the uphill task of ensuring the safety of her friends and family, Katniss attempts to convince the entirety of Panem that her berries’ trick was purely out of an ever-growing fear of losing Peeta, the love of her life. She asserts that her act must not be seen as a defiance against the Capitol.
At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.
As always, Collins does not forget to invest on her characters. Throughout Catching Fire, readers are forced to take notice of how Katniss becomes increasingly fond of Peeta. It stands out in stark contrast with her feelings for her supposed star-crossed lover. This is where Katniss and Peeta begin to play a major part in each other’s lives. Their mutual understanding of most things stand out as the defining feature of their relationship. Katniss comes across as the more sophisticated of the two, and her observations are more acute.
Collins also offers intriguing insights into the nation of Panem. Its power structure, the rumors of a secret district, and a growing rebellion evoke a compelling imagery. The story is equally rich in provocative political and social commentary. It brutally examines the themes of morality, obedience, oppression, rebellion, redemption and, of course, survival. The author subtly creates a tantalizing and – SPOILER ALERT! – unresolved love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. It keeps the readers anxious to read the next installment in the series.
Catching Fire is also a powerful portrayal of how a desperate government tries to hold off a revolutionary tide. In this sense, the book has something of the epic Orwell-feeling to it. It certainly helps that at the heart of this exotic world is a very real girl, the kind lacking even a supernatural gift.
Collins has done a commendable job in depicting the horrors of the Hunger Games arena. The clock system is simply astounding. And then there is the ending, where Collins has once again lived up to the high expectations. While slightly obvious, the finale is, nonetheless, likable. The pace is a bit slower and the emphasis is more on the characters than the plot. A major part of the story unfolds outside of the arena, though the novel is not short on action-packed combat. Overall, readers will find Catching Fire as gripping as The Hunger Games.
On the flip side, Collins just skips the whole coming-back scene and narrates it in the past tense. The fast-paced action, which earned The Hunger Games a string of accolades, is conspicuous by its absence in Catching Fire.
In a nutshell, Catching Fire perfectly builds on the suspense generated by its prequel. In doing so, it bags a praiseworthy score of 3.9 stars out of 5. With its thrilling representation of a terrifying dystopia, this book offers a much-needed refuge from the trivialities of everyday life.
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