“The bird, the pin, the song, the berries, the watch, the cracker, the dress that burst into flames. I am the mockingjay. The one that survived despite the Capitol’s plans. The symbol of the rebellion.”
This is one of very very few trilogies I have read in my life where the second book is just as good, if not better than the first.
Katniss and Peeta have won the 74th Hunger Games and are paraded around Panem on their Victory Tour. After a personal touch to the speeches goes horribly wrong in District 11, they retreat into the roles that the Capitol wants them to play, but Katniss can never shake off her need to rebel against the ghastly President Snow. He exacts revenge for her rebellion in the arena in a terrible way, and now Katniss will need more than Peeta and Haymitch to keep her alive.
One of the biggest strengths of these books is the incredible world that Collins has created. It’s not complex – it’s just the future, but it has been a long time since I was so engrossed in a different world that it was hard to pull myself back to reality; Garth Nix’ Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen series was probably the last one to do it. As a result, the reader is devastated by the twist in the plot which puts Katniss and Peeta back in terrible, awful danger.
Katniss develops significantly as a character in Catching Fire – she is regularly reminded that she is not as “good” a person as Peeta. She seems to be in shock for much of the first part of the book – I was discussing the book with Sister-in-Law Physicist, who loved the books but thought that Katniss turned too weak at the start of this volume. I think she was incredibly strong, but then that the fact that her attempt to reach out to the people (particularly the families of those who died in the arena in the Games) unleashed such brutality, she didn’t really know what to do and just went through the motions.
The romantic entanglements tangle further in this volume; Katniss constantly seeks comfort from Peeta without ever giving him much back. She is having to present Gale as her cousin, knowing how much it hurts him. She is flattered and confused by Finnick’s flirtatious attentions at the Capitol. While I was tired of her vascillation, I can see why she couldn’t choose – Gale is her past and her ally, Peeta her survival and her future.