So, finally, a Hunger Games novel that doesn't have Katniss entering the Hunger Games. If the previous two novels hadn't completely destroyed Katniss though, this one will. Recruited, although press-ganged felt more like it, to the rebel cause she is used as a media puppet - forced to act out set pieces to ensure that their cause is well advertised. And while I really enjoyed it while I was reading it, looking back at it afterwards it left me feeling a little bit sad for them all ...
It turns out that the rebels aren't actually a whole bunch nicer than the people already running Panem from the Capital, at least their leadership isn't. President Coin seems a lot less overtly cruel than President Snow, but she has an equal disregard for the lives of the little people. While Snow seems to take more enjoyment in his cruelty, Coin is no warmer a human being. While it may be more honest, Collins paints a pretty bleak picture of humanity. I guess that's the nature of a distopian novel.
Throughout, it's a pretty bleak novel. The war feels equally bleak and pointless. Maybe there's more action going on elsewhere, but Katniss and the gang seem to make very little progress, suffer a few bluntly pointless deaths and then suddenly they're in the middle of the Capital. If it was that quick, why didn't District 13 do this years ago? Even having reached the Capital they don't really seem to feel like they've achieved anything. The Capital suddenly feels much smaller than it had before - the front line appears to have Katniss, miscellaneous soldiers, and importantly the medical staff - why are they on the front-line again?
Ultimately, the book, and the trilogy seem to be about Katniss having no control over her own life at all. From the early belief that she needs to carry her family, the inevitability of her volunteering for the Hunger Games, the love-triangle relationships where she chooses whoever is nearest. Then she's a puppet for the Capital, then for the resistance. And finally, she's cast aside and left as a shell of whatever she might have been. Honest. Brutal. Well written. And very sad.