It is August 1914 and Tarzan has learned of the start of the great war. He rushes back to his African estate. When he arrives he finds it burned to the ground and his faithful Waziri killed. A charred body of a woman with Jane’s wedding ring is all he finds of his wife. Driven insane he goes on a savage quest for vengeance against the Germans who did this.
Tarzan wages a one man war against the Germans in east Africa. After killed the officers responsible for his wife’s death, Tarzan heads to the interior. He wants to leave civilization behind and live out his life with the apes. He hooks up with an ape tribe and lives a simple life.
Eventually a squad of native deserters from the German army enter with a captive female German spy. What follows is an adventure that leads him to a lost city of maniacs. At adventures end he finds out that Jane is still alive.
This is probably the most controversial Tarzan that was written. It was written during America’s entry into the war and reflects the jingoism of the time. All Germans are portrayed as cruel and stupid with no redeeming qualities. Edgar did have that tendency to go overboard on stereotypes. I read where this killed the market for his stories in Germany where they were popular. Subsequent novels with strong German characters did nothing the reverse the damage that was done.
The other controversy was killing off Jane. I think that was a bold move on his part. The character was limiting on future stories. He only used Jane for two more future novels. Still there was an outcry that proved unpopular with his fans so he added at the end that Jane was still alive and the Germans had put her ring on the body of an unknown native woman.
In spite of its flaws I still enjoyed the book. The subsequent books to follow are considered some of his best work.