The Lightless Trilogy: Radiate (Book)
But Matthew is on a strange quest of his own, traveling the galaxy alongside Ivan, with whom he shares a deeply painful history. Ananke and her parents are racing toward an inevitable collision, with consequences as violent as the birth of the solar system itself—and as devastating as the discovery of love.
C.A. Higgins is back with the final book in her Lightless trilogy, Radiate, bringing her personal story about civil war and rogue spaceships to a close. Is the final chapter worth picking up? Check out my review of the new book release to find out!
Radiate is the final novel in the Lightless trilogy and it has quite a bit of ground to cover. Supernova (the second book) put the focus on Constance Harper and her war against the oppressive System, along with the Ananke (the sentient and deranged spaceship) and showing how Althea was trying to control her creation….which didn’t go well.
Supernova mostly ignored Ivan and Mattie, two integral characters from the first novel, but Radiate picks up their story. Much like Supernova did for the other characters, Radiate picks up almost immediately following the events of Lightless and takes place during the same timeframe as the events from the previous novel, just from a different perspective.
As such, Radiate fills in many of the gaps and questions I had while reading Supernova last year while forging its own story. It hops back and forth in time, showing readers what’s going on with the characters now, and key events in their past that led to their present circumstances. It’s a neat way to give backstory while providing some emotional punch to the “current” events in the story.
Where Supernova was a war story, Radiate is a much more personal journey of redemption and finding a place in the new order. While Mattie and Ivan played a large part in the revolution and events in the trilogy, their story here is about surviving in the aftermath and discovering what truly matters.
Wrapping Up the Story
If you’ve picked up Lightless and Supernova, the first two novels in this trilogy, there’s a good chance you’re going to want to pick up Radiate if for no other reason than to see how it all ends. The trilogy itself has been...interesting. I wasn’t over the moon with Lightless and felt it tried to do too many things at once, making it difficult to stand on its own. Supernova really improved on the story and helped tie together elements of the previous story, while leaving new threads dangling. In much the same way, Radiate improves on what’s come before and makes those stories feel more cohesive and engaging.
This is both good and bad. It’s good in that the entire trilogy feels much more interesting, especially in how Radiate continues to jump back and forth in time, adding important character insights that explain things in the previous books. The bad, however, is that none of these novels really stand well on their own. It’s not a series where you could pick up any ONE of them and enjoy the story within itself. Each book pretty much NEEDS the others to feel complete and engaging.
It’s impressive in a lot of ways, however, as it’s clear to see the amount of forethought and planning that went into the trilogy. There are elements brought up in the first book, that get a payoff in the backstory in this third novel. None of which would have happened if not for a lot of solid planning from the very start.
Race to the End
In many ways, Radiate feels satisfactory and definitely closes the story out for the primary characters (in a really great way that I won’t spoil here). It’s a solid conclusion to the characters we grew to know, but in terms of the STORY...it was a tad lackluster.
One of the things Higgins has done best with this series is excellent world building. Between the governmental systems, technology, and pseudo-history the Lightless trilogy is bursting with great concepts that really bring the world to life. It’s immersive and easy to fall into, which makes the shortcomings in the story feel all the more painful.
There’s so much setup and great world building, but the story does almost nothing with it. As I said, Radiate is a much more personal story this time around and makes much of that world building feel superfluous this time around. This is all the more jarring as the finale, which concludes the major plot thread from the initial novel, is forced into about the last 20 pages of the novel.
It happens so fast it takes some of the punch out of primary threat in all three novels. It was such an abrupt ending to it all, I wondered at all the other elements tossed in throughout the novel. It set up some really neat plot threads, but rushed to get to them at the very end. While things still felt like they wrapped up nicely, most of the emotional connection I had to it all. Considering all the investment going into developing the world it seemed very out of place.
The trilogy is so tightly woven together, not one novel really feels like something I could come back to individually and have fun. It has to be taken together as a whole. For some, this isn’t a huge deal, but it knocks it down a notch for me.