After waiting what can only be described as an interminable amount of time for the second two books in The Hunger Games trilogy to come in for me at the library, it came to pass in the fullness of time that they finally arrived and I blazed through them in literally four days, utterly lost to the world beyond their pages.
Catching Fire is the second book in the trilogy and follows the aftermath of the events of the first book. The actions of Katniss in the Games to save both herself and Peeta from certain death have been viewed by President Snow and the Districts as a sign that the Capitol can be successfully forced to back down and unrest is spreading through the Districts. Thus, as she and Peeta are summoned to a Victory Tour through all the Districts, she is given an ultimatum by President Snow – defuse the sparks of revolution or face the deaths of her family and of Gale. But some sparks cannot, once lit, be quietly extinguished and President Snow has no expectation that Katniss will be able to control the fire her actions have ignited. Even as the prospect of being selected for the Quarter Quell Hunger Games and returning to the fatal arena loom, Katniss knows that the only way for this tide of revolt to be quelled is for the symbol of the rising fire – the girl who was on fire – to be crushed underfoot.
To the debate as to which book is the best I have nothing to say. All three of the books are marvelously written and outlined, but I suspect from a structural standpoint Catching Fire is certainly the most chaotically constructed. It felt as though Katniss and Peeta having to go back into the Games midway through the book was too rushed. The book simply didn’t seem long enough for its material. It could have used another fifty to a hundred pages or so without hurting the book at all. It seemed like two books, the first half on the Victory Tour, and then in the Games, although it likely wouldn’t have worked that way either.
This structural oddity did little to detract from the pleasure of its reading experience. Few books have utterly captured me the way all three in this series have captured me. The only comparable stories in recent memory would be the Harry Potter septology. I’ll start out slow, at a comfortable pace, reading a chapter or two the first day or so, but by the time I’m into chapter three I’m hooked in the up-til-three-in-the-morning-reading sort of way, and the next day I do nothing except read if I can help it. Katniss’s uncertainty toward Peeta and the conflict between Peeta and Gale is developed nicely. It was certainly pleasant to see Cinna and the other stylists from Hunger Games back, as well as to meet the new faces in the Games the second time around.
All in all, Catching Fire was a worthy second act to the Hunger Games trilogy. What? You haven’t read it yet? Go thou and do.