All Ludstadt was in an uproar. The mad king had escaped. For ten years no man of them all had set eyes upon the face of the boy-king who had been hastened to the grim castle of Blentz upon the death of the old king, his father. Into this troubled country came Barney Custer of Beatrice, Nebraska, a virtual twin of the mad king. Burroughs wrote this tale of confused identity and royal intrigue in 1914-15, just as World War I was about to begin, and the events that led to the war inform the book as Burroughs wrote. It means to be an homage to Anthony Hope's Prisoner of Zenda but the war's influcence makes it a very different story from Hope's almost-whimsical novel.