This review contains spoilers, both to The Hunger Games and Catching Fire
I'm of two minds concerning Catching Fire. On one hand, it felt like a disappointment, on the other it pressed all the right buttons to keep me reading until the wee hours of the morning.
Catching Fire continues where The Hunger Games left off, with Katniss and Peeta preparing for the Victory Tour, where they will visit all the other districts and the Capitol. But if facing the families of the Tributes that died on the Games wasn't bad enough, President Snow himself has showed Katniss that he wasn't happy with the stunt she pulled off during the Games, ensuring that she and Peeta could both win. This move, which was an act of survival, was seen in the districts as an act of rebellion, and with Katniss as poster girl for their movement. Snow issues her an ultimatum: either she convinces everyone that she is no rebel, and calms down the districts, or district 12 and all her friends will suffer.
I had a lot of hopes on this book. I hoped to learn more about Panem, the Capitol and the Districts, a bit more of its history, and how the Games affected each district. Unfortunately, there wasn't much of that. The Victory Tour, that could have given so much insight into the other districts, was gone in a flash. Only one incident is described fully to show the effect Katniss has, all the others are merely mentioned. Yet there was some much time devoted to Katniss' dresses and body hair.
Once it's clear that the rebellion is not calming down, the book picks up a bit. And the response from the Capitol is unexpected. However, I felt cheated because I would be thrown in what was basically the premise of the first book – the Games. Even if I knew the games would be the redeeming feature of the book, I would have preferred a more original plot. But I guess you don't change a winning team, so the author kept with what made the first book enjoyable.
And believe me, when the Games start the book get really good, there is a lot of character development, both the major one and their new “friends”, and the Games themselves are different, because there are different motivations behind it.
Another thing that got on my nerves (and I mean, really got on my nerves) was the ending. I know the series was already planned out, with the 3 books, so it's normal to have cliffhangers between them. But the ending of Catching Fire doesn't even deserve that classification – to me it shows that the author cannot come to a conclusion of the story, even if it is going to continue, and this (together with some reviews) makes me dread the end of Mockingjay, the last one on the series.
But, like I said in the beginning, this book kept me awake until very early in the morning, reading just one more chapter until I got to the end. Even if most my expectations were not met, and there were things that I didn't enjoy.