This is a masterful retelling of how flawed characters conquered the southwest. Great narration, too. A must for anyone interested in the Navajos, New Mexico or Kit Carson.
I purchased this audio version of "Blood and Thunder" on the basis of some very favorable reviews that the book received in the press. Alas, Hampton Sides' survey of the history of the American Southwest during the middle decades of the 19th century does not live up to the hype. He is at his best describing the landscape of the region, but his narration of events and the personalities that drove them lacks historical rigor. After a while, one becomes a bit tired of statements about what a person "must have" thought, "probably" felt, or other such conjectures. Sides is not content to let events speak for themselves. He has to ramble on about the unknowable. This is fine for a novelist, and may be appropriate for a historian if diaries and other first-hand accounts give sufficient sense of what cannot be observed. But Sides uses it to excess. Instead of adding to the story, it merely inflates a remarkably sparse book. It is indicative of Sides' unwillingness to explore what can be documented--the culture of white America suring the period in question, the politics and tactics of the US army, background on whites' earlier interaction with native Americans, the influence of Catholicism on the Southwestern tribes, and so on. He barely touches on these crucial questions. It's sad, because Sides is an excellent stylist, but in this case he lacks substance to back it up.
The reader (Don Leslie) is adequate, though certainly not among the best I have heard. He has a deep voice, and occasionally he seems to lumber through the story. Still, he does the material justice.
Family father, neuroscientist, and non-fiction audiobook addict.
This book describes what happened in western Mexico (later the United States) between approximately 1845 and 1865. The United States sought to expand their territory so that it would stretch from the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean, but Mexico stood in the way. In the resulting conflict Kit Carson, the protagonist in this book, rose to prominence.
The title and the setting made me think that this book would be full of exhilarating action. Sure enough there was some action but there was a lot of drawn out stories in between, some of which were superfluous. While Kit Carson is the protagonist the reader will also learn about Narbona, the famous leader of the Navajo, general Kearny who lead the american army against the mexicans, as well as a number of other surrounding characters. The fact that the book is temporally organized means that the books jumps around a lot between the different characters.
Still despite the hap-hazard feel sometimes associated with this book, there are also some buried gold-grains. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about the history of California. It is an astonishing fact that only a 150 years ago it was a sparsely inhabited and dangerous desert. I was also fascinated by the description of the Indians and how they thought and felt when they encountered the modern american military.
For the reader that seeks an in depth description of the main characters in the Mexican war, including their pre war biographies, this book is a good option. For me, it was too long.
Kit Carson was woven expertly through the the events that unfolded through this novel.
In case you didn’t know it, the Navajo indian name for ‘boring’ is: “Blood and Thunder written by Hampton Sides and narrated by Don Leslie.”
Normally I can’t wait to turn on my Ipod and listen to my audiobooks. With “Blood and Thunder” I kept hoping I would run out of batteries, that someone would interrupt me or that my ears would just fall off. When none of this happened frequently enough, I decided to delete the book without finishing it.
The narrator sounds pompous and the author has confused the art of story telling with the task of writing a shopping list. Some how this anti-dynamic duo have turned a great story into a very tedious affair. There are some great audiobooks out there; this just is not one of them.