Tuesday 26 June 2012

Review: Tarzan - The Jungle Warrior by Andy Briggs

When a baby gorilla is snatched from its family by the world's most infamous hunter, Tarzan will stop at nothing to track him down - crossing the wild jungle and hostile African savannah to bring him to justice.

Meanwhile, Jane is trying to learn more about Tarzan's past, and must decide whether reuniting him with his lost Greystoke family is the right thing to do. But Robbie has ideas of his own. He has formed a plan that will get rid of Tarzan for good, and keep the secrets of his own past safe.

Last year I wrote a glowing review for Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy, Andy Briggs' superb reboot featuring Edgar Rice Burroughs' iconic character. Since then I have been eagerly awaiting the next book in the series, and pretty much dropped everything when a copy arrived through my letterbox. I am happy to report that not only has Andy Briggs produced another thrilling adventure story that young readers will adore, it is also possibly even better than its predecessor.

The book opens with Nikolas Rokoff, the greatest hunter in the world, receiving a commission to venture into the Congo to bring back a gorilla. So begins a white knuckle ride of an adventure that sees Tarzan, Jane and Robbie risking life and limb as they travel across Africa in pursuit of Rokoff. This is action/adventure writing at its very best, with scene after scene after scene that are just begging to be put on the big screen.

Whilst the first book was a great introduction to the main character for a 21st Century audience, it also introduced us to Jane and Robbie, both of whom are not particularly happy with the hand they have been dealt in life. In this book we see their characters developed even further, with Jane becoming tougher and more independent (in a good way), and Robbie struggling with his conscience, especially with regards to Tarzan and the avaricious plans he and Clark are making as they aim to prove to the Greystokes that the legitimate heir to the estate is alive and kicking.

Andy Briggs pulls no punches with his legendary king of the jungle, and the story certainly hasn't been sanitised for the modern audience. When he needs to be, Tarzan is a brutal and unmerciful killer, but in his mind every one of his actions is justified if it involves the protection of his home, and more importantly its animals, the only family Tarzan has ever known. Whilst we saw a few moments of Tarzan's explosive fury at civilised man's wilful destruction of his jungle habitat and its fauna in the first book, in this sequel they happen far more frequently as he battles against poachers who think nothing of slaughtering elephants for ivory, or capturing animals for wealthy collectors. Young readers are left to decide for themselves whether the end justifies his means, and the book is a thought-provoking story that could make a great starting point for discussions about poaching and other environmental issues.

As I said in my review of The Greystoke Legacy, I am no expert on the original Tarzan books, although I know a number of people who are big fans of both ERB's series and that first book by Andy Briggs. They tell me that although they had their doubts about the character being updated for a modern story, they also felt that Briggs and got the king of the jungle nailed perfectly in their minds. As I was discussing this book with one of them I mentioned Rokoff's character and I was told that Andy Briggs certainly knew he stuff. A quick google later and I found out that Rokoff, and his assistant Alexis Paulvitch who also appears in The Jungle Warrior, are characters who both feature in the original stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs, as does D'Arnot, the man who taught Tarzan to speak English.

I flew through this book and I think young readers will do exactly the same, as the plot races along at a fantastic pace as the trio pursue Rokoff across a handful of African countries. It is the kind of book that will also have readers vocally cheering on the jungle hero, especially during the many superbly written fight sequences. Although the main plot line of the story is brought to a satisfying conclusion, Andy Briggs pulls something of a fast one and the final paragraph will have readers clamouring for the next title in the series.

Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior is due to be published on 12th July and my thanks go to the good people at Faber for sending me a copy to review. Come back here on 13th July for a guest post from Andy Briggs, as part of the Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior blog tour.

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