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Book Review: Adventures in Wild Space

The American book covers for the series

The Adventures in Wild Space books are a seven-part series (including a short prelude story from World Book Day to start off) by Cavan Scott and Tom Huddleston. The books follow two children- ten-year old Lina and nine-year old Milo Graf, along with their droid CR-8R (affectionately- or annoyedly, called Crater) and Milo's pet monkey-lizard, Morq. Shortly after the events of Revenge of the Sith, their parents are taken by the Empire, and the children set out to get them back- but of course, it's Star Wars, so nothing can be too straightforward or easy, even for little kids.


Spoiler free thoughts: I loved the books. A lot. I was surprised by how invested I became in them, because they're not books necessarily meant for my age group. However, I became really attached to the character through reading them, was excited by some appearances from Star Wars Rebels side characters, and greatly enjoyed the fun moments in the books. We're introduced to plenty of captivating original characters throughout the books, and to new and exciting worlds and species. They were incredible Star Wars stories, with all the core themes of family, hope and persistence, presented in a touching way.


If you want to read them, which I'd highly recommend, you can order them all off of Amazon, either as paperback books or for your Kindle. Note that some of the books have different titles depending on if you order the European versions (for example, the European title for The Heist is The Steal.)


Now, if you don't mind some spoilers, read on for my thoughts on the Adventures in Wildspace series, book by book.


Prelude: The Escape by Cavan Scott

Stormtroopers on the cover of "The Escape"

The Escape is the shortest of the series, because it was a World Book Day title meant to introduce our characters and the beginnings of the plotline. We're introduced to the Graf family- the parents, Auric and Rhyssa, are explorers who make and sell maps of the territories in wild space. They have their cranky, but very helpful, droid named CR-8R (Crater), and their two children are Lina and Milo. Lina is the older sister, and she's great with tech- she's able to repair droids, ships and speeders easily. Her younger brother Milo, on the other hand, is much more fascinated with the natural world, and he loves catching and learning about different creatures. He has a pet monkey-lizard named Morq that follows him around everywhere, something neither Lina or Crater are particularly fond of.


The main characters of the series in "The Escape"

With this set up, we get the Empire encroaching on the Graf's home- led by the fearsome Captain Korda, a cruel Imperial with a steel cybernetic jaw. He takes the Grafs when they won't give up all of their maps for free, and the children, along with their droid and monkey-lizard, have to escape from the remaining Imperial troops. The children secretly get to their parents ship, the Whisper Bird, and craftily evade Imperial detection by flying through a cave. Once they're free into hyperspace they then get ready to begin a search for their parents.


The first story is a great set-up. As I said earlier, we definitely get a feel for each character, their personality, and their role in the books to come. I pretty instantly fell in love with the Graf children and their companions, and became very invested in their stories. It built a great foundation for the series. I was hooked right away by this first story, which made me excited to receive the next book...


Book One: The Snare by Cavan Scott

Captain Korda on the cover of "The Snare"

The Snare is the book where we really get to see both Lina and Milo be crafty- after all, seeing that they're small children being hunted by adults with powerful weapons, craftiness is all they have. The Graf children go to see an old friend of their parent's to try and get his help- however, it turns out to be a trap! Lina is captured by Captain Korda, but Milo is able to pull a trick with the help of Crater (and his own affinity for learning about different creatures) and the children are able to narrowly escape once again.


What I loved about this book was how it gave Milo, as the younger sibling, a chance to prove himself. Because Lina is the older sister, she's very protective of him, and makes him stay on the ship while she goes to meet with their parent's old friend, Dil- something Milo is certainly not thrilled about. When the meeting with Dil turns out to be a trap organized by Captain Korda, Milo has to think on his feet, and he comes up with a plan to rescue Lina by using the call of a local species of pests to make them attack the Imperials- and his plan works brilliantly! This was especially great to read about because Milo had earlier been feeling useless, as Lina's technical skills had been coming in handy earlier when the ship was in need of repairs, while Milo's knowledge of the natural world hadn't been quite as useful yet. It's in this way that the two children's interests and skills compliment each other, almost like they're the space Baudelaire children.


Another fun part of this book was right in the beginning, when Lina has to do a spacewalk to make some repairs on the outside of the ship. She uses magnets in a spacesuit to stick to the ship to get her repairs done. The scene is very tense to read, and you breathe a sigh of relief when Lina accomplishes her task and gets to safety.


There's a lot more great about this book- the children getting near-immediately ripped off for fake bug spray after landing in a comedic scene, and the way that mounting tension in the scene with Dil is written so perfectly as the reader (and Lina) realize that Dil has been convinced into tricking the children by the Empire. But the next book, The Nest, is where we get introduced to some of my favorite original characters from the series.


Book Two: The Nest by Tom Huddleston

The beast on the cover of "The Nest"

The Nest might be among my favorites of the series. Following the voice of an anti-Imperial transmission, the Graf children head to a remote world, where they find a downed ship with creature cages: one holding a dead veermok, and one empty. The children investigate, and discover that a hunter named Gorzetta and her crew have been having creatures from across the galaxy brought to this world that she believes to be uninhabited, and she plans to hunt them for sport. However, there is one, very large creature that she didn't know about, wreaking havoc on her plans and capturing two of the people that work with her. She uses Milo and Lina as bait to lure the creature out, and while the arrogant Gorzetta fights it (without much success), the Milo and Lina take the opportunity to escape along with the kinder members of Gorzetta's crew, who direct them to Lothal as the source of the rebel transmission they've been hearing.


My immediate reaction upon finishing this book was "oh my gosh, they're going to Lothal!" But beyond that excitement, the rest of the book was so good. I really loved the character of Gorzetta- she wasn't particularly likable per se, she was arrogant, uncaring, and rather cruel- but I found her to be entertaining. Her grandiose attitude and overconfidence were fun to read, and charming in their own odd way. I also liked her role as a hunter, bringing species to be captured and hunted by her as prey. It reminded me of one of my favorite arcs from The Clone Wars where Ahsoka is captured by Trandoshan hunters and thrown into an arena where they're all hunted for sport- and she escapes with the help of Chewbacca and some other unfortunate Jedi padawans. While Gozetta isn't quite as cruel (she brings actual creatures rather than fellow humanoids), she also doesn't quite have the regard for people's lives we'd like her to have- except for when it comes to her own, of course.


Gorzetta (center) and two of her underlings

This book again allows Milo and Lina to demonstrate their craftiness in the face of enemies much more powerful than them, and using the fact that they get underestimated because they're children to their advantage. Both children get to use their respective skill sets to help them escape Gozetta and the giant bug creature that she awakens, and of course, Crater gets to make himself useful too.




Book Three: The Heist by Cavan Scott

From left to right, Rom, Odai and IG-70 on the cover of "The Heist"

The Heist is the book that has the most fun Star Wars Rebels cameos, making it probably my favorite of the entire series- though not just for that reason. The book starts by showing us that Captain Korda has hired the help of a mysterious bounty hunter (with a very cool looking costume) known only as "The Shade." After imparting that knowledge on us, the book goes back to Lina and Milo. The children arrive on Lothal and are immediately greeted by Cikatro Vizago- and though Rebels viewers know that he's not a trustworthy character, the Graf children certainly don't. They follow him as he promises to help them with their plight- only for him to take them to his boss, who helps the children by showing them a way find the source of the transmission they've been tracking... and in exchange, he takes Crater's head and forces them to leave.

Shalla Mondatha comforts the Graf children

The children are dumped off, and feel helpless when they're approached by a kind woman running a local food stand out of her ship, The Moveable Feast. Her name is Shalla Mondatha, and she offers them hot meals while she listens to their story, and offers to help them take back Crater's head. She helps sneak them into the building, but the children fail to meet up with her after taking the head back- instead, they run into another friendly stranger. Ephraim Bridger takes the children back to his home, where they meet his wife Mira and little baby Ezra. The Graf children tell the Bridger's their story, and Ephraim warns them about The Shade, as the Bridgers intercepted transmissions saying that she was after the children and the information inside their droid's head. When he shows them The Shade's ship- the children realize that it's The Moveable Feast- meaning that Shalla is The Shade. The Bridgers try to help the children escape The Shade, but it's no use, and they're captured, though in the final line of the book, Ephraim Bridger calls in a favor from Ryder Azadi.


This book was my favorite, packed with fun action, as well as twists. While a smarter reader probably would have figured out that Shalla Mondatha was secretly The Shade, I was genuinely shocked when it was revealed, and actually gasped! And there's plenty more great about this book, even down to the smaller details. For example, there's a scene where Shalla shoots Vizago's horn off- revealing the reason for his broken horn in Rebels (and what would eventually become the namesake of his crime syndicate and ship). In addition, getting to see Ephraim and Mira Bridger (and baby Ezra!) in this book was fun as well. They'd unfortunately already passed by the time Star Wars Rebels comes around, so it's great to see how they engage in heroics that their son is able to live up to years later. And of course, in true Adventures in Wild Space fashion, we were introduced to a few intriguing (if evil) characters that worked with Vizago. I also really liked how we again get to see Milo and Lina have to be crafty in their efforts against their enemies, but also that they're able to take help from friends- even if those friends don't all turn out to be trustworthy.


Book Four: The Darkness by Tom Huddleston

The Shade on the cover of "The Darkness"

The Darkness is the "bottle episode" of the series, and I mean that in a very good way. If you aren't familiar, a bottle episode of a TV series is an episode that is dialogue-heavy, generally is restricted to very few, sometimes even just one set, and use doesn't many props or effects of expensive or time-consuming nature. In a TV series, these are usually done for budgetary or time reasons- they're cheaper, easier, and faster to film than the standard episode for a series may be. I feel that when done right a bottle episode can be an incredible piece of storytelling. I'm of the opinion that creatives can do some of their best work when restrictions are placed on them- by forcing them to work within a box, even a very large one, you force them to have to be more purposeful and think harder about what they're creating and how they're creating it. The restrictions that come with writing a bottle episode are perfect for that.


Now, you're probably wondering why I'm talking about bottle episodes at all- after all, books can write about whatever they want without worrying about budgets for actors, sets, costumes or effects. The reason I think that The Darkness acts as a bottle episode for the series is that we only have one location- The Shade's ship, because of the children's capture at the end of the previous book. Because we're now trapped in this small location, with very few characters, no detail can be frivolous. Tom Huddleston needed to be very particular when writing this book in order to create a satisfying story, and I think he did so very well.


To recap this book for you: two prisoners are brought on board the ship along with the Graf children, a human named Stel, and a Lasat named Davin. Davin gets knocked out when he's brought on board, but Stel explains that Davin is known as the dangerous Butcher of Brentaal IV, while Stel himself was caught for being a rebel. After being stuck in their cells for a while, Lina and Milo are able to free themselves and take the restraining bolt off of Crater- however, to their horror, a box of cybernetic spiders that The Shade was hauling has opened up, and they're violent- except they won't go in the light. The Shade herself has been taken out (though not killed) by the creatures, and needing help, the children go back to free Stel- finding that Davin has already freed himself, but Stel stuns him and knocks him out once more. However- Stel's true identity is revealed... he is the actual Butcher of Brentaal IV, not Davin, who's the rebel. Stel threatens Lina into doing his bidding so he can deliver the children to the Empire, and hooks Crater up to the ship for power, leaving Milo imprisoned alone with the unconscious Lasat. Fortunately, Davin wakes up, and he helps Milo and Lina fight Stel off. They're all able to meet up with the Bridgers and are taken to safety, the Bridgers helping them with information that could lead to their parents, and the children's quest continues.


Davin

I loved this book a lot, if you can't tell. Lina and Milo do really shine in this book, and they're forced to make hard, irreversible decisions, even when those decisions don't always turn out to be the right ones, like the one to free Stel. For the most part up to this point in the series, the Graf children had been able to just go along, only thinking forward when it came to what to do next. In this book, they were forced to make "either or" decisions, and had to face the consequences of those decisions. This book also continues the series' trend of letting us spend some time with interesting original characters, earning a little bit about them as they interact with the Graf children. My favorite in this book was Davin, the Lasat rebel and friend of the Bridgers, though this may be in part due to my soft spot for Lasat because of how much I love Zeb Orrelios.


Book Five: The Cold by Cavan Scott

Captain Korda, Snowtroopers and a captured Lina Graf on the cover of "The Cold"

The Cold is definitely an extremely intense book in the series. Lina wants to detour from the safe planet that the Bridgers told them to go to in an attempt to find their parents in the Xala system. Unfortunately, the children are pursued by a now-disgraced Captain Korda and the RX pilot droid he's roped into his scheme. After sustaining an attack, they crash land onto a hostile ice planet. The Whisper Bird sinks below the water with Milo, Crater and Morq trapped inside, while Lina runs to an ice cave in an attempt to hide. Lina is pursued and though she is able to bravely evade him for a while, is eventually corned by Korda, who captures her. Lina convinces him that now that he's been kicked out the Empire, they can work together and he doesn't have to turn her in. Korda appears to agree, but immediately sells Lina out once snowtroopers arrive on the scene. Meanwhile, Milo and Crater struggle to keep themselves alive in the sunken ship, and Milo discovers a species of large creatures down there with them. Using his knowledge of the creatures he's seen with his parents, he finds a way to communicate with them using flashing lights, however he's interrupted when the Imperials start pulling them out of the water with a tractor beam. While Korda and the snowtroopers search the now destroyed Whisper Bird, Milo, Crater and Morq sneak around to the ship that Korda had stolen, and they take it for themselves, flying off in search of their parents, much to the dismay of Korda.


I found that Cavan Scott captured the emotion and tension of this story perfectly. Even though I was sure that Milo, Crater and Morq would be okay, I really felt for Lina when they first went under, as she felt like she had truly lost everything she had left- and I found her forcing herself to hope and her dedication to keep going very admirable. When Lina was fleeing Korda in the caves, I celebrated each time she was able to jump or climb and put more distance between them- and found myself growing more and more nervous each time he got closer, all the way up until his capture of her. I also found her kindness and mercy towards Korda, even after everything she'd endured, very touching. It showed how she hadn't let her experiences change her for the worse. Korda's betrayal also caught me off guard- it wasn't that I fully trusted him with Lina, but I was still surprised at how quickly he gave her up, and the reveal that he never truly wanted to team up with her anyway. I think it was totally in-character for him though, as we know he's about as selfish and power-hungry as they come.


There's just as much tension with the other plot in this book too. I could really feel Milo and Crater's fear and desperation under the water, trying to plug up leaks in the downed Whisper Bird and figuring out a way to get to the surface and contact Lina.


Another great part of this was how Milo and Lina dealt with being separated. It's not that they hadn't been separated before- they were separated briefly in both The Snare and The Darkness, needing each other's help to get out, but this time was different. They were split up almost right at the start of the book, and didn't reunite until it was nearly the end. Both characters had to really stretch themselves to the best of their abilities in order to keep going and find each other again.


Milo had many emotional parts too. In the beginning of the book, he admits to himself that he's starting to lose memory of his parents, and he feels ashamed and scared over it. He watches old holorecordings of the good times that they all had as a family in a really touching moment at the start of the book- and at the end, with the Whisper Bird destroyed and the Graf children upset over the loss of memories there and their only other home, Crater reveals he downloaded all of the data from it, including those holorecordings, and the children embrace him in yet another extremely touching moment.


Book Six: The Rescue by Tom Huddleston

The Graf children on the cover of "The Rescue"

In The Rescue, we travel to the mushroom-covered planet of Agaris, where the Graf parents are being held by the cruel Grand Moff Tarkin. Tarkin has been stripping the planet of its resources, despite the volatile nature of some of the fungus, and the fact that many of his troops go missing by the day. The Graf children crash land thanks to a mushroom shooting at them, and their ship is searched by Imperial troops, as well as K-4D8, a droid the same model as Rogue One's K-2SO, who's been sent by Director Krennic to keep watch on the Grand Moff's actions and assist him. The children hide from the Imperials, though Crater gets stuck in the ship and is found, his head unfortunately taken to the Empire so they can copy the data that the Grafs had hidden in his head. The Graf children are found by mushroom people- Agarians, who confuse them for their parents, Auric and Rhyssa. Lina and Milo explain who they are, and enlist the help of the Agarians, most notably Hffrr, who communicates with the Grafs. He helps the children get into the prison where their parents are being held, but he cannot go further, as the power generator messes with his senses when he gets too close. The family reunites once they're all there, running and hugging together in a very emotional moment, only to be taken back to the prison- though all together this time.


Meanwhile, Morq is scrabbling around the garbage chute of the Imperial complex, when Crater's discarded head reactivates and calls out to him, asking for his help. Crater is able to reassemble himself into a large combination of different building droids, now fitted with a giant body, large saw and fists. He tries to free the Graf family, but only gets away with Lina. He and Lina deactivate the base's power generator, and with the help of the Agarians, run the Empire off of the planet. The Agarians peacefully release all of the Imperial prisoners they had been taking in an attempt to scare the Empire away, and once their work is done, they explain to the Graf family that they are not actually from Agaris, they simply settled on this planet thousands of years ago, and will now leave and try the same somewhere else They all leave the planet as spores, drifting away to find a new planet at the same time as the Grafs (who have reassembled Crater onto a more fitting body) leave in a ship. The Grafs consider running to a far off planet and settling down, but the children and Crater, convinced by what they've seen of the Empire, convince them all that they must continue the fight against the Empire, in order to protect others from having to endure all that they did.


The Graf family, together again

The finale of the series was very touching and emotional for me. I was happy to see the children reunited with their parents, and that the Agarians were able to rise up. The Agarians made it clear that they considered themselves peaceful, but they understood that they had to stand up for themselves against the Empire, or else be destroyed. In that way, the Agarians reminded me of the Lurmen from The Clone Wars. I also enjoyed getting some pages written from Morq's perspective. It's definitely not something I saw coming, but was still very entertaining. I always love brief animal points of view in stories, so seeing from the eyes of the scrabbly monkey-lizard was very fun, and a good creative choice, considering that that part of the story could easily have been written from the perspective of Crater instead.


I think what I enjoyed most was the emphasis on the character of the Graf family (including Crater). They're kind, resilient people, and we see these traits in both the children and the parents. They never give up on themselves or each other, even if things look hopeless, and I think that makes all of the characters perfect role models for young readers of the story. Their determination to continue the fight against the Empire and to help the rebels (who at this point are very unorganized because the book doesn't take very long into the Empire's reign) is extremely admirable, and something to inspire us all.


I thought that The Rescue was a great book, and the perfect way to wrap up the amazing story that was Adventures in Wild Space. Even if you've read all my summaries, I would still recommend reading the books- there's plenty of things I didn't really touch on, and they're definitely an enjoyable reading experience for people of all ages, with lovable characters, emotional weight, engaging plot and an overall very fun story.

From left to right: Crater, Lina Graf, Milo Graf, and Captain Korda

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