Corionalus Snow at the end of 'The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes'

What Comes First, the Songbird or the Mockingjay?

If you’re here looking for an answer as to whether you should read The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes before watching the movie, my answer is yes. It’s always yes when it comes to reading books before their on-screen adaptions and especially so in the case of TBOSAS because of the unique nature of the perspective.

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The question of whether to read TBOSAS before the main Hunger Games trilogy is a trickier one to answer, however. There are pros and cons to both sides and, without giving away too many spoilers, both will likely offer a slightly different experience. Here’s a spoiler-free look at your two options.

Reading the prequel first

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes is set 64 years before The Hunger Games and it tells the story of a key character from the original trilogy. I won’t mention exactly who it is to the main character, as the main benefit of reading TBOSAS before The Hunger Games would be experiencing an interesting shift in perspective from one book to the next.

What’s more, TBOSAS establishes the Hunger Games themselves, meaning you’d get to see the reality show battles that gave the franchise its name develop from its infancy to the more established process that we see in the original trilogy of books.

If you do start with TBOSAS, you might miss a few references to the characters and events of the original trilogy, so it’s well worth coming back to after you’ve finished the full series. But the same goes for if you flip them around; Suzanne Collins is a talented writer who has built a complex world, so there are plenty of neat references to take in if you know what you’re looking for.

Reading the original trilogy first

The other option is to read all three Hunger Games books first, before going on to read the prequel, TBOSAS. This offers a creeping sense of dread as you know where the main character of the prequel novel will end up, as well as already having more intimate knowledge of the future of the games.

From the surnames of various characters and hints at the development of the Hunger Games themselves to a certain song that comes into play 65 years later, there are plenty of tidbits woven through the narrative that paint a picture of a fully-realised world. This is arguably more clear when you read the prequel first, with Collins having written it after the fact and therefore having the ability to drop more clues in.

Ultimately, you can certainly pick either option. Whichever one you pick, you’ll almost certainly want to do a reread if you’re the kind of reader (like me) who wants to pick up on every easter egg and reference possible.

(featured image: Lionsgate)


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