So I don't want to accidentally give away too much, which limits what I can talk about. I'd love to get into whether or not Snow is inherently the Snow we meet later on, or if it's someone he becomes through trauma. I have a distinct opinion after finishing the book -- sharing it will spoil everything though. Suffice it to say, he's nothing if not complex and highly intelligent.
This prequel to The Hunger Games Series takes place during the 10th Hunger Games. The games are still coming into their own, so this event is missing all the showmanship and flash we see when Katniss enters the arena. High school students have been tasked to act as mentors for the tributes for the first time, Snow among the chosen.
The Capitol is a different place too. Still reeling from the war, the district is in a state of reconstruction. As a result, poverty appears in unlikely places, namely Snow's apartment. A once prominent family, their money troubles are about to get the best of them. Reputation is all they have, and it's also on the line when Snow is assigned the female tribute from District 12 to mentor. He needs a win, but the odds aren't good. Fortunately, there's more than meets the eye when it comes to his tribute, Lucy Gray. She's highly intuitive and resourceful both inside and outside the arena. You can't help but root for her.
The Hunger Games themselves are narrated through Snow's perspective. You don't know everything that goes on in the arena, or among the tributes. In fact, the actual event plays a small role in the story. What goes on outside the arena is more important. It's what makes this Hunger Games unique. Before, during, and after, events occur that allow Snow to really solidify how he feels about it all. How he feels about people, Panem, family, duty, and love. You could even say that this single year in Snow's life is his character-defining year, and he's still just a teenager.
This self-discovery does turn him into the terror we meet through Katniss, but how far off is he here from who he becomes later?
This prequel is an exciting story that felt very different from the original trilogy. You get insight into the vile character we'd already seen, but as his origin story. I wish I could say more, but I really enjoyed this book and recommend it. Just read the original trilogy first.