The Return of Tarzan (Burroughs, E., R., 1913)

The Return of Tarzan picks up soon after the events of the Tarzan of the Apes. After the tragedy of not getting Jane's hand in marriage, Tarzan decides to go back to France to meet his friend d'Arnot. During the ship voyage, Tarzan gets mixed up with a villain named Rokoff, who's trying to blackmail count and Countess de Coude. The latter is, unbeknownst to the count, a brother of Olga de Coude but the vile man is not letting that blood tie stand up on his way in trying to worm his hands to the state secrets the count has at his disposal. After Tarzan has thwarted a couple of attempts of Rokoff's, he has gained a lifelong enemy.

Back in Paris Tarzan's and Olga's friendship grows and Rokoff hatches yet another plan: he aims to make it look like the two are having an affair. This succeeds to a point where the count challenges Tarzan to a duel, which he accepts, but only to let the count win, as he feels he has wronged the man and that is the only way to let it all rest.  After all, is said and done, Tarzan manages to win the count over and is also employed by him for the secret government business, which whisks him back to Africa.

In Africa, Tarzan is tasked to check out some possibilities of French officers selling secrets to the enemy. Tarzan soon finds out that it's Rokoff, again, who's behind all the trouble. After some twists and turns, Rokoff manages to get rid off Tarzan by sending him head first into the ocean, while they're both aboard the same ship. At the same time, Tarzan is swimming for his life, Jane Porter, Clayton and the posse from the first book have returned to Africa.

Jane is trying to postpone the wedding looming ahead of her, as she's come to a conclusion, that it's not Clayton she loves, but Tarzan. On the board of the ship, Tarzan had sailed travelled also Jane's good friend, who later on tells her a tale of a strong young man, who went missing during the voyage. She shows a photo of him to Jane, which makes her despair, as she now believes her love is dead. Rokoff, on the other hand, is trying his best to woo Jane's friend in marriage, as he has learnt there's some serious money to be had there.

Surprisingly enough Tarzan manages to get back on land, luckily even close to his old stomping grounds near the cabin his father built. From there he gets back to the jungle he so much loves and after some wild jungle living, he manages to find a Waziri tribe, who unlike the black cannibals from the first book, is a quite more reasonable lot, especially after Tarzan saves one of them from the mouth of a lion. After some Arab slaver killing action, Tarzan is made a chief of the Waziri.

During his stay with the Waziri tribe, Tarzan is told, that somewhere up in the jungle is a lost city of Opar, filled with gold. As he knows very well, that gold is important in the civilized world, he convinces his new tribe to go there with him.

At the same time, Jane Porter is in danger again, as she shipwrecks, obviously near the same cottage which seems to be some sort of bad luck magnet. Half dead she, Clayton and Rokoff are the only ones who survive to the land of the rescue boat they've managed to clamber in after the rest of the crew dies of thirst and starvation. The other part of Jane's posse is aboard another rescue ship, faring much better.  During the boat voyage, and after the landing, Clayton and Jane finally see the true hair of Rokoff's and the threesome isn't having a jolly good time, especially Jane after Rokoff learns of her past with Tarzan and does his best to shame the man he loathes, but believes to be dead.

Back in Opar Tarzan has been taken captive. The degenerated half ape men and their better-preserved women try to sacrifice Tarzan to the Sun they worship. Of this trouble, Tarzan manages to escape with the help of La, the high priestess of the Opar city. Soon after his escape Tarzan finds the Waziri men he came to Opar with and they carry out some gold just to get to the coastline soon enough for Tarzan to succeed in rescuing Clayton and Jane from the fangs of yet another lion. Sadly enough seeing Jane and Clayton breaks Tarzan's heart and he decides to escape back to apes of his childhood, leaving the Waziri and the civilization behind him. Unbeknownst to him though Jane has finally managed to tell Clayton that nope, the marriage ain't gonna happen as her heart belongs to Tarzan and if he's dead, she shall never marry. Good for her finally standing up about her feelings.

After Tarzan has swung with the Apes for a while, he learns that the men of Opar have taken Jane as their prisoner. Terrified he races back to Opar, just in time for saving Jane yet again. Together they escape Opar and finally, in the Jungle, they manage to realize their love. Oh, the feelings. The lovers return to the shelter Clayton and Rokoff were left only to find dying Clayton there, as the sinister Rokoff has left the feverish man to die. In his final breath, Clayton confesses that he knew of Tarzan's heritage as he had found the telegram d'Arnot had sent him. Accompanied by the Waziri, Tarzan and Jane take poor Clayton's body to the cabin of Tarzan's parents only to find the rest of the castaway posse there, accompanied by d'Arnot, who has again come to the rescue, as he had been patrolling the coastal waters of Africa.

In the end, Rokoff is detained, after Tarzan relays his story to the officers, so the wicked are to be punished by the court of law and not by the muscle of the ape-man. Then there's a small funeral for Clayton and a similarly small wedding for Tarzan and Jane, whom then return to civilization with the knowledge of Tarzan heritage as well as a good loot of gold taken from Opar.

While the Return of Tarzan is, similarly to the Tarzan of the Apes, filled with tropes, it is at the same time much better story than its predecessor. It does fast forward some things, but it also manages to keep up the excitement pretty well by using storylines which intertwine and overlap each other. Though the overuse of the tropes, like Tarzan coming to the rescue in the last possible moment, and again the lions, do make most of the excitement a bit too predictable. Burroughs had a bit bad of a habit letting things escalate a tad too far almost every time, which does make some parts feel like a bit too parodic. Also, just like in his Barsoom books, a good deal of things seem to happen only because of luck more than anything else.

Structurally speaking the Return of Tarzan does stay together much better than the Tarzan of the Apes does. While the story has its flaws, it also feels a bit more coherent entity as a whole. It does have some amount of loose air in it, but at the same time it feels like this time around Burroughs took some time in laying out a bit more specific, albeit a bit loose, structure for the second outing of his most well-known character.

This time around there's less time divulged towards the comedic sidekicks, like Jane's father and servant of the Porter's, Esmeralda. A lot of the characters do in fact feel more like unnecessary additions more than real boons in the greater arc of the story, as they don't really go anywhere and don't really feel necessary for the bigger picture. The portrayal of the black native Africans is more agreeable than in the first book, but again they are mostly given a role of superstitious children whom Tarzan needs to coax and educate. While it is a step up from the savage brutes of the first book, it still is on the level or patronizing.

The Return of Tarzan is, as a story, a step up from the first book. It's fun and exciting ride in an old pulp adventure fashion. Again, it's a story that isn't meant to be taken too seriously, as an adventure and a bit of melodrama are what it's all about. It is, however, a direct sequel to the first story, so in order to get a better grasp of it, it would be advisable to read the two books in order, as doing that would make some things a bit more clear. Then again, the things from the first book are explained quickly here and there, so reading the first book isn't strictly necessary.