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Publisher's Summary

In the fall of 1846, the venerable Navajo warrior Narbona, greatest of his people's chieftains, looked down upon the small town of Santa Fe, the stronghold of the Mexican settlers he had been fighting his whole long life. He had come to see if the rumors were true, if an army of blue-suited soldiers had swept in from the East and utterly defeated his ancestral enemies. As Narbona gazed down on the battlements and cannons of a mighty fort the invaders had built, he realized his foes had been vanquished. But what did the arrival of these "new men" portend for the Navajo?

Narbona could not have known that "The Army of the West", in the midst of the longest march in American military history, was merely the vanguard of an inexorable tide fueled by a self-righteous ideology now known as "Manifest Destiny". For 20 years the Navajo, elusive lords of a huge swath of mountainous desert and pasturelands, would ferociously resist the flood of soldiers and settlers who wished to change their ancient way of life - or destroy them.

©2006 Hampton Sides; (P)2006 Books on Tape

Critic Reviews

"An excellent addition to collections on western history." (Booklist)
"[Sides] eloquently paints the landscape and history of the 19th-century Southwest." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings


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  • Overall

History Many Don't Know

This is a wonderful book, wonderfully narrated. The book tells the story of the US war with Mexico to acquire what is now the southwestern part of the country. It is not, I believe, well known. At least, it wasn't to me. The story of the US Army's dealings with the Indian tribes in the area, particularly the Navajo, is also told. Much of the book deals with Kit Carson, who, I discover, was a huge figure in achieving our manifest destiny, along with President Polk and Senator Benton. Carson is one of the most fascinating figures in American history. News to me.

11 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • russell
  • levittown, NY, United States
  • 12-09-08


This had to be one of the best I've ever had. The story of Kit Carson is unbelievable it's men like him who helped shape America for the good and the bad. If you like history this book will definitely open your eyes to a lot of things that were never taught in school but things that you wish they would of have taught us. The narrator was on the money he was perfect for the book and if you like American history and a true story this is definitely the book you want you won't be disappointed

15 of 17 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

Publisher's summary does not do it justice

At its core, this is the history of Manifest Destiny in action. First, this is an outstanding book, and covers an arc of history of the American west spanning from the first decades of the 1800's to the end of the Civil War. The narration mainly follows the extraordinary life of Kit Carson, who managed to be at the center of an astonishing number of historical events in the west. The first act covers the early days of the west before modern Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and California were incorporated into the Union and the Santa Fe trail represented the limits of the frontier. It then follows the wars and annexation that consolidated the US's presence in the west, the establishment of the Oregon Trail and immigration that followed. The third act of the book focuses on the Navajo and the tragic attempt to settle them at Bosque Redondo, and this final part of the book is moving and tragic, but ends on a hopeful note. The narration is excellent, and although like many history books, it can feel a little slow at parts in the beginning, the pay off is definitely worth it.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Dwight
  • Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 03-27-07

Engaging and enlightening

While difficult to feel pride in this chapter of our American heritage, this book carries you through the historic period guided by the US policy of manifest destiny. The central character is Kit Carson, who embodies the phrase 'a legend in his own time.' If ever there was a man of skill, integrity, honor and fortune, it is he. Carson was a man who defined good in an era when the US imposed its will on Native Americans. The book does not make Kit Carson infallible, but it does provide a sound, timeless role model.

There are also many others on all sides of the conflicts, who portray the best and worst of the human character.

Twenty hours is a long story, but I found myself antsy to carve time to keep 'turning the pages.'

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Andy
  • Carthage, MO, USA
  • 04-14-08


Wow! I wish more nonfiction books were written like this. Using a storyteller's narrative, the author manages to be factual, balanced and entertaining.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


i live in taos and so this book hits home. i think it has a balanced approach to kit carson. very good listen. the only problem i had was with some of the readers pronunciations of spanish words like rio grande and basque.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Andrew
  • San Diego, CA, United States
  • 10-22-08

An Insightful Account

Mr. Sides has an astounding talent for taking otherwise dry historical accounts and making them into well paced reads for the non-historian.

To some extent, the precis on this book is deceptive, in that Narbona is not the core character. It would be much more true to say that Kit Carson is central to this book, as it largely follows his post-trapping career in the American southwest, and ends just after his death.

One thing which does come through clearly here is how much complete failure to comprehend cultural differences, ignorant bigotry, and narrow-minded military mindsets on the Mexican, Indian, and American parts combined to contribute to numerous needless atrocities by all sides shaped the character of the Southwest. Happily, many figures of the time (Carson, Kearney, Narbona) come out as clear of all of these factors. Unfortunately many others (Chivington, Carlton, Manualito) come through as clear contributors.

All together, this book came out as a very balanced characterization of a difficult time in American history.

The presentation is clear and the pacing is good. Mr. Leslie does a reasonable job of contributing accent to quotations to characterize them as distinct from narrative text.

8 of 10 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Gary
  • Santa Fe, NM, United States
  • 06-05-08

blood and thunder

A fabulous book about Kit Carson and the development of the southwest. The reader was great as well as a very well told story. I heard Hampton Sides speak in Santa Fe after listening to the book and he told of the tremendous amount of research that he did. If you like history and the Southwest, this is a must read.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall


I listened to this title while driving across the traditional homeland of the Navajo, which in some ways made the words more alive than they would be if listened to elsewhere, but even allowing for the dual enchantment of the land combined with the words, Blood and Thunder is a masterpiece. I've subsequently listened to the entire book again, and it was as good as the first time.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Performance
  • Story

This is a history book

The book was just ok for me. It's a history book about the Navahos and Kit Carson. I'm a history buff, but this book could have cut in half. I didn't know it was a history book, and wouldn't have spent a credit if I had known.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kristian
  • 10-06-16

Epic and fantastic story.

I never knew anything about Kid Carson apart from having heard his name. He is by far one of the most if not the most interesting characters i ever heard about in connection to the american wild west