After I reviewed Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration, a coffee table book full of all things about Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, I was contacted by the publisher of a new young adult series that effectively reboots Tarzan for the next generation.
The novels, Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy and Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior, casts a modern-day Tarzan in his traditional role as protector of the African jungle at at the center of the war going on over resources on the continent. I was skeptical. Burroughs’ Tarzan is a product of the pulp heroes of his time and there are some problematic racial elements involved with a white savior in Africa.
After the first chapter of the first book, my skepticism vanished. We see Tarzan stalking his human prey in a scene that could have come directly from Burroughs, and I was hooked.
Andy Briggs has retained Tarzan’s savagery and strikes a good balance between adventure and the young-adult oriented coming of age story of the heroine, Jane. In these books, Jane isn’t a romantic interest for Tarzan so much as his first human friend. Jane is in the jungle with her father, who is trying to make a big payday with an illegal logging operation after a bankruptcy triggered by Jane’s estranged mother. The leader of the expedition, Clark, is well aware his crew is breaking the law but needs the money, like Jane’s father. Initially, Jane hates being in the camp for all the wrong reasons. She misses Baltimore and her pampered life, rather than being worried her father is doing something wrong.
Naturally, her camp becomes a target of Tarzan’s wrath, as he sees it as a threat to his tribe and the other jungle animals he protects. Jane is injured inadvertently during one of Tarzan’s night raids on the camp and she ends up with his gorilla tribe, being nursed back to health by him. I love how Briggs doesn’t stint on the details of Tarzan’s savage nature, such as eating his meat raw and dripping blood. (This doesn’t endear him to Jane, who’ll only eat fruit.) The descriptions of the jungle and Tarzan’s way of traveling through the tops of the trees are excellent.
The action scenes, particularly a lion attack on the gorillas of Tarzan’s tribe, are also well done. I also like how all the characters at the camp are three-dimensional. The exception to this are the rebels who blame the loggers for Tarzan’s attacks on their camp and who force Tarzan to work with the loggers.
Overall, this is a very good continuation of Tarzan’s story and updates him nicely. I’d recommend them for ages 10 and up because of the violence.