South African outdoorsman Allan finds himself in the magical kingdom of Kor in Libya after a spiritual struggle leads him there, and in order to get the answers he seeks, he must first help out his friends, and do a service for Queen Ayesha, by leading her army to battle against her rival. The third novel in the four-part Ayesha series sees a return of She, the white queen of Kor, and introduces Allan, a new protagonist (though he does appear in other Haggard novels, which I haven't read).
Allan is an intelligent, decisive man of action. He is small and not very good-looking, but deadly with a gun. Born and educated in England, he moved to South Africa as a young man and settled in with the Boers. Now he is a big game hunter and reformer, in the mold of his evangelical parents but without the religious zeal (but plenty of cultural zeal).
Mourning the death of his son Harry, who was a medical student, Allan turns finally to a Zulu priest to ask if he can communicate with the dead. The Zulu priest says that he cannot, but if Allan seeks out the white queen in the desert, she can help him. He gives Allan an amulet to protect him on his journey, and although Allan is dubious, his desperation and grief are such that he undertakes the journey. It is long an arduous and lonely, with only Allan's servant Hans to keep him company, but after a while he meets other people and befriends them on the way: a Zulu warrior named Umslopogaas, a Scottish adventurer named Robertson and Robertson's attractive daughter, Inez. When Inez is kidnapped by Amahagger tribals the three men rush to save her, but in the process stumble upon the volcano of Kor, where the retainers of the sorceress queen tell Allan, Roberton and Umslopogaas that Ayesha awaits them inside the mountain. She is veiled so that her magical beauty does not ensnare the men, though she is flirtatious with Allan in her regal, Ayesha way, but he is too hard-headed to fall for it. Ayesha says she can help them retrieve Inez, since Inez's kidnapper, an immortal Amahagger warrior named Rezu, is now Ayesha's rival for the rule of Kor. Allan agrees to this for Robertson's sake. However, Robertson is impatient, fearing his daughter might be either cannibalized or married off against her will to Rezu, and rides out to find her.
Allan leads Ayesha's own Amahagger army into battle, though Hans warns him that Rezu has spies in his army. This is confirmed by another Zulu warrior, who reports that Rezu knows of Allan's battle plans and now plans to cannibalize Robertson in front of his daughter. Forewarned of Allan's advance, Rezu's warriors nearly overwhelm Allan's forces, but the timely magical intervention of Ayesha's spirit distracts and intimidates Rezu's soldiers, and gives hope to Allan's men. Allan breaks through the enemy's lines, but he is too late to save Robertson from being burned. Rezu is a giant, dark and muscular with glowing eyes and a booming voice, and vows to destroy Allan and Ayesha, despite the fact that Allan's forces have been victorious over Rezu's army. Umslopogaas kills Rezu in a duel, and all that remains for Allan to do is to rush into Rezu's tent and rescue the bound, gagged, drugged Inez.
After the battle, Ayesha speaks with Allan alone, and gently tells him that she knows why he sought out a Zulu priest near Durban, South Africa. And she knows why Allan is truly here. She offers to show Allan his dead son Harry and his other loved ones. Afraid at the last moment, Allan attempts to refuse, but she shows him anyway. Allan sees his dead loved ones, but the experience leaves him confused, emotional and also skeptical. He tells Ayesha that he does not believe it was real, and she asks if he really doubts her after the displays of her power that he has seen thus far.
The next day Umslopogaas, Allan and Inez leave Kor. Ayesha tells Allan that the dazed Inez will remember nothing, and it will be better to leave it that way. She bids them farewell and sends them back south with an armed escort. Inez does indeed forget everything that happened and Allan tells her that her father died in a freak accident while riding, and she believes it. Umslopogaas, who can never return to the Zulus, decides to face them anyway, and they accept him back. Inez has no future in the African bush without her father, and quietly becomes a nun. Allan returns to Durban, without the longing for his loved ones plaguing him to quite the same degree.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked the larger than life, classical fantasy aspects of it, like the appearances of Rezu, the spiritual messengers, and the fantasy armies battling it out.
Best scene in story:
When Ayesha heals Inez's prone, traumatized body and we see a very gentle, almost maternal side of her that we haven't seen before.
Opinion about the main character:
I liked how decisive and protective Allan was.