What’s it about? At the start of the second book of the Hunger Games trilogy, sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen is failing to enjoy the so-called spoils of being a Hunger Games Victor. Against all odds, both she and Peeta Mellark (one side of her love triangle) have managed to survive the Games. Her mother, sister, and best friend Gale Hawthorne (who completes the triangle) are safe. The Capitol hasn’t (yet) taken revenge for her rebellious actions in the Games.
As the story opens, we see that six months have passed since the Games. Katniss now lives in a swanky new house in the Victor’s Village and is preparing to embark on the mandatory Victory Tour throughout all twelve districts of the country of Panem. But as glamorous as the Tour might sound to outsiders, Katniss sees it for what it truly is: a dog-and-pony-show meant to prove that even Victors, forced to face the families of those they killed, are subject to the Capital’s whims. After the Tour goes horribly wrong, things just get worse as the special theme of the 75th Annual Hunger Games is announced.
Is the narrator any good? Catching Fire is part of a trilogy, all narrated by Carolyn McCormick, a seasoned audiobook narrator with an MFA and a primetime acting career under her belt. I wasn’t a huge fan of her voice at the start of the first book, but by the second she had definitely become Katniss for me. Her voice has the right balance of a teenager’s youthfulness and the seriousness of a woman with the fate of society resting on her shoulders.
The verdict? This installment of the trilogy is more about character development and world-building than about the life-or-death action of the original. That being said, Catching Fire may actually be my favorite of the three—rare for trilogies, which tend to have saggy middles like any other story. Instead of falling into that trap, Catching Fire starts out leisurely to let us catch up with the characters and get familiar with the consequences of the actions in the first book, only to become a fast-paced story well worth the listen. But don’t tune out for even one second; the plot later on moves so quickly that you may come back lost!
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