mocking“I stare down at my shoes, watching as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather.”

Trilogies are funny things. You have to try and get the balance right and have every story be equally weighted in how good they are and try not to finish everything up before you hit the end, but also not throwing in so many plot points that they end up getting unfinished at the end. Some people do it very well.

But here, with the usual warning that there are numerous spoilers ahead for the series – and in this case, I’m completely just going to give away the ending because it merits discussion – and a heavy heart, I begin my review of Mockingjay, the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy.

The last book ended with Katniss, Peeta and a few other tributes being rescued from the Hunger Games arena by a rebel faction who are determined to end this torture and take down President Snow, the Nero-like leader of Panem. This one opens a while later with Katniss exploring the ashen remains of District 12, her former home, before being told that the rebels want her as their Mockingjay, a symbol of rebellion against Snow and the Capitol. She is less than keen, and with all the other changes in her life, she wants to just try and forget that any of it happened, which is impossible. She now lives in District 13, entirely underground, and her friend – the boy she possibly loves – Peeta keeps appearing on television, being used as a mouthpiece by the Capitol, but clearly having undergone torture and worse.

Katniss decides to become the Mockingjay and is sent out to other districts to meet people and show support. Just the sight of her can be enough to make people think that all hope is not yet lost and they can and will win. Once the districts have fallen, it will be time to take the war to the Capitol itself and see that President Snow is executed. But it’s not that simple, as the leader of the rebels, President Coin, seems to have her own agenda, and it’s one that Katniss is not best pleased with. It all hangs on Katniss being the hero that everyone else wants.

So, I put up with the flaws of the first two books, but this one was really just a disappointment. Most of the action that drives the story – Peeta’s torture, the ongoing challenge to take down the districts, Katniss’s trial at the end – all take place off screen. It seems to go from having one or two districts aiding the rebels to all of them doing so with barely any time at all, and with Katniss only visiting District 8 on the page for any length of time. She spends the vast majority of her time moaning and griping, not sure whether she loves Peeta or Gale, and leaving me not understanding why either of them would even want to be with her.

Haymitch; one of the redeeming features of the series

In short, I think I just found it hard to care about any of them by this point. Yes, I understand that they wanted to end the Hunger Games and a full-scale revolution was was probably going to be the only way to do that, but it seems strange that after seventy-five years of accepting those games without any real qualm, suddenly everyone was prepared to start disobeying the Capitol, a force that has long been shown to have incredible power. Even if they do get their resources from the other districts, they still had more firepower and strategic ability to stop any revolution before it occurred, right? Maybe I missed something.

I also do have to discuss two bits that happen right near the end. Firstly, once Snow has been captured and the Capitol is at the mercy of the rebels, the remaining seven victors are called to place a vote. They must decide whether, as punishment, they will host their own Hunger Games using the children of Capitol residents as tributes. Shockingly, they vote yes, apparently not having learnt a single thing about the past and instead going for petty revenge. Oh sure, maybe Katniss and Haymitch were playing a different game by voting for it, knowing that it was the only way to convince President Coin that they were on her side, but the whole thing seems a bit ridiculous.

And then you’ve got the epilogue (referred to by a couple of my friends as the “crapilogue”), which is two pages long, revealing what happened twenty years later. It ends so abruptly at the bottom of a page that I didn’t even realise it was the end of the book and turned over to continue to find the acknowledgements. Meanwhile in those two pages, Katniss is stripped of all her strength, independence and volition when it turns out that Peeta wore her down for fifteen years about having children, something she’d always said she didn’t want. So while she ends the book with severe PTSD and generally being a mess, she still then has to become a mother because the boy she finally chose (only because the other never came home) nags her into it. That doesn’t seem like something the Katniss that Collins had been building up for the last three books would do. Bah.

The thing is, the best parts of the series are the bits taking place inside the Hunger Games arenas, and with that gone, so too is most of my interest. Oh sure, they try and get something similar going by having booby-trapped pods lace the streets of the Capitol once the rebels break in, but that doesn’t seem to make any sense anyway, and it’s just not the same. Also, Effie has all but vanished and I like her. Everyone warned me that the third book was a let down, and they were right.

So it’s a disappointing ending for the trilogy. If you haven’t yet embarked on it, it might be worth just sticking with the first one and not bothering to carry on. You could probably write your own ending that would be better than this. Ah well, another trilogy down.

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