The story starts in an unnamed European country. The king has been assassinated in a coup and his young son Michael is taken out of the country. What follows is essentially two separate stories running parallel to each other.
The even chapters tell the story of Michael. He is on a ship when it goes down and finds himself floating alone in a lifeboat. He has no memory of his past life. He is rescued by a crazed deaf mute on an old steamer. His only other passenger is a caged lion. The old man enjoys to torture the lion and also starts to torment the boy.
One day he is careless and the lion escapes and kills the old man. The boy is unharmed since they formed a friendship. The boat beaches itself on the shores of North Africa and both leave for the freedom of the wilds. Eventually the boy rescues a Bedouin girl named Nakhla. She finds that the boy now a young man has no knowledge of speech. She names him Aziz which means beloved and teaches him Arabic. What follows is his adventures in North Africa and how he saves Nakhla with the help of his lion friend. He later marries Nakhla and settles with her father’s tribe.
The odd chapters deal with the European country. The new king Otto is a tyrant kept in power by Sarnya the head of the army and secret police. His son Ferdinand is even worse. This story deals with the intrigue as various factions plot to overthrow the government. Eventually Ferdinand becomes king and proceeds to bankrupt the country for his own extravagant lifestyle. He is killed with his mistress by a group of young officers and Sarnya becomes dictator. The final chapter ends with him receiving a telegram from Michael congratulating him and offering his sympathy.
This book was an interesting story. I liked the use of telling two separate stories with alternating chapters. One was a jungle adventure that Burroughs was known for. The other was a tragic tale that had no happy ending. It’s tied together at the end quite nicely.