I must say I did enjoy this book though I didn't love it - while Collins' writing is very strong and approachable, I think I preferred the other books in the series. My biggest disappointment was the ending - it was almost as if when the author got to the last 20 pages or so she felt pressured to rush to the end. Everything just seemed to take a turn way too quickly - though ultimately the turn they took was not a surprise to readers of the whole series.
This book goes back 64 years from the original Hunger Games books to examine the early life of Coriolanus Snow, who was the villain in Katniss Everdeen's world. Snow's illustrious family, which now consists of only his grandmother and his cousin, has fallen on hard times as a result of the war with the districts. Snow is obsessed with regaining their former wealth and grandeur and hopes to do so by being a mentor to a tribute in the annual hunger games.
He is somewhat disappointed when he is paired with a long shot - the girl tribute from District 12, Lucy Gray. However, her sense of style wins him over and the two must work together to give her a chance to survive. Snow does everything possible to make it happen which captures the attention of the extremely weird head games master, Dr. Gaul. She eventually figures prominently in his future.
Snow's competitive personality is contrasted with that of his classmate, Sejanus Plinth, who is empathetic and horrified by the hunger games events.
I don't want to give away the main plot which of course centres around what happens in the Hunger Games arena. Suffice it to say there is action, mayhem, murder, blood and gore and ultimately a winner. The outcome for Snow is not necessarily what he expected either.
The book does provide a vivid picture of the implications of abuse of power and control, particularly on how it can mold young minds.
If you liked the rest of the series it's worth trying this one.