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Publisher's Summary

Empire of the Summer Moon spans two astonishing stories. The first traces the rise and fall of the Comanches, the most powerful Indian tribe in American history. The second entails one of the most remarkable narratives ever to come out of the Old West: the epic saga of the pioneer woman Cynthia Ann Parker and her mixed-blood son, Quanah, who became the last and greatest chief of the Comanches.

Although listeners may be more familiar with the names Apache and Sioux, it was in fact the legendary fighting ability of the Comanches that determined just how and when the American West opened up. They were so masterful at war and so skillful with their arrows and lances that they stopped the northern drive of colonial Spain from Mexico and halted the French expansion westward from Louisiana. White settlers arriving in Texas from the Eastern United States were surprised to find the frontier being rolled backward by Comanches incensed by the invasion of their tribal lands. So effective were the Comanches that they forced the creation of the Texas Rangers and account for the advent of the new weapon specifically designed to fight them: the six-gun.

The war with the Comanches lasted four decades, in effect holding up the development of the new American nation. Gwynne's exhilarating account delivers a sweeping narrative that encompasses Spanish colonialism, the Civil War, the destruction of the buffalo herds, and the arrival of the railroads - a historical feast for anyone interested in how the United States came into being.

©2016 Simon & Schuster (P)2016 S. C. Gwynne

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Great story in need of better narration

Such a fascinating dive into a distinct part of history. The only critique is it seems the narrator was emotionally disengaged from the book's content, which left more to be desired from such a powerful story.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Rick
  • Murrieta, CA, United States
  • 10-07-16

Historically Significant

I've read a few books that focus on the Native American culture and the impact on the American West. I particularly enjoyed "The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend" written by Bob Drury, and Tom Clavin, and also Nathanial Philbrick's "The Last Stand", and "The Mayflower", each providing a glimpse into what Native Americans were up against, and the finality of their existence. This book provides an insight into the lives of one of if not the most feared tribes ever to grace the North American continent: The Comanches.

Plain and simply put, the Comanche nation was nasty! This is a band of natives that stopped at nothing when it came to war, whether they fought, captured, tortured, raped, scalped, or simply killed their opposition, they held nothing back. And they conducted these atrocities with fervor and zest which is far more extreme than any of their native cousins might have done. And the author doesn't hold back. Each detail is spelled out regardless of the victim, regardless of the situation, and without concern for a reader's queazy stomach. The nasty details are all provided as the historical significance of this great tribe unfolds.

The book feels a bit long in places though may be a result of the author's effort to include every generational anecdote from the early 1700's until their ultimate demise in the late 1870's. Little appears to be left out so the chapters are filled, and thus long(er) in spots. But the tiresome length is helped along with an easy to listen to narration which is evenly pitched, with perfect inflection and annunciation. David Drummond does an excellent job!

If you're looking for a book on Texas, and Oklahoma Native American history, this is the one for you. No details are left outs and you'll find each chapter full of historical significance you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Racist, inaccurate garbage

Empire of the Summer Moon is always mentioned when I tell people that my husband is Comanche. We thought it would be pleasant to listen to this book during a road trip. We were disgusted by how incredibly racist, inaccurate and ridiculous this book is. It’s complete horse****. I’m disgusted by this awful book.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Informative and Easy to Follow

As a ninth generation Texan I've always known a few things about the Massacre at Parkers Fort. However, this book has been easy to follow from that first event to the last. The author does not fill white space, and is concise with the use of words. I appreciate this type of book. My understanding of this era of Texas History has been greatly improved. Thank You! Clifton

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Rich account of the Comanches

A very detailed and incisive look into the Comanches, in particular their history with and against the Spanish, Texans and Americans. It has many valuable insights into the violent nature of the Comanches, which is a welcome addition to story of native and American conflicts in the country's history. It's a fair point that a lot of so-called revisionist history of relations with native peoples tend to downplay the negative aspects of their cultures... namely, the violence, the role of women, the treatment of enemies, etc. All these provide beneficial information for a richer understanding of American history.

However, it does help produce the book's weakest parts, with some squishy equivocations for corresponding American, read: white, misbehavior. This is presumably to appease the counter-PC crowd who routinely denounce these kinds of books as biased and unfair. The enjoyment of the book is in no way reduced, but it merely presents a few flimsy rationalizations for wrong-doing by whites, oftentimes blaming incompetent or corrupt Indian Bureau agents or rogue settlers and cattlemen. The saving grace is that once presented, the author doesn't really seem to believe it either, firmly establishing the existence of the overarching racism of manifest destiny and evangelism as root causes. But once the egos of the more sensitive readers/listeners are salved, the story can proceed.

It fits well into the library of powerful books on the history of native peoples in America.

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Objective and mesmerizing

A great story of American history, sadly not to be found in history classes, it should be.

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  • Keith
  • arcadia, FL, United States
  • 11-08-17

A book I didn't want to end

As gritty, terrifying, and factual as it gets on life on the Texas Frontier. I now have a much better understanding of the fear felt by early Texans living under the light of the Comanche Moon. Excellent book, highly recommended.

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Enthralling and heartbreaking history. Loved it.

Have always been intrigued by the story of Quanah Parker and his mother, Cynthia Ann. This was so well written, I could hardly stop to sleep. Horribly, wonderful history.

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Cultural Horrors in the North American Indian Wars

Empire of the Summer Moon, researched and written by S. C. Gwynne, and narrated by David Drummon. This is the story of the most vicious of all the Indian wars fought on the North American continent; the fight between the Comanche nation, first with the Spanish in New Mexico, then the Texans (and the famous Texas Rangers) and finally, the United State of America. This is the story of the war and required destruction of the Comanche nation.

Any Indian nation story having to do with the destruction of the North American Indian peoples is going to be measured in the shadow of the seminal, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Bury My Heart explains how the indigenous nations of North America came to realize the white migrants to their lands were far too numerous to withstand. So, as nations, entered into treaties to hopefully provide the opportunity to live in peace and preserve traditional life. Truthfully, in Summer Moon, we learn no Indian was ever going to abide by a paper agreement in any case; documents meant nothing to him/her. Also, notwithstanding the written commitments, the migrating white Americans treated the original natives as being less than human, and therefore any obligation to a savage does not require fidelity. As such, Bury My Heart and Summer Moon are filled with holocaustic undertakings; by both the white settlers against the Indians and the Indian nations against the white settlers. The debauchery, hatefulness and vehemence that is explained in Bury My Heart is fathomless.
Empire of the Summer Moon is about one of those Indian nations, the Comanche. Prepare yourself for a stunning realization; the ledger of atrocities falls more heavily upon the Comanche. Summer Moon is about common human wickedness.

In Summer Moon, S. C. Gwynne, instructs us in the very evil content of the American Indian’s nature. If Gwynne is to be believed, we come to learn of the disrespect most Indian nations, and especially the Comanche had for other humans who came to them, through theft, trade or outright war. In fact, the Comanche’s, and other Indian nations, according to the story, have a cultural bias to be horrific to their adversaries. That is not racism. That is just an explanation of the natives learned cultural values. The Comanche, were merchants, but included in their mode of commerce, was the acceptability of not only fair trading, but duplicity and stealing wealth from others was also very acceptable. Yet it gets worse, because in that practice of take what you can, if what was taken was another human being, it was their value that torturing the captive males to death and rape, pillaged and enslavement of the taken woman were proper acts. Any children were selectively treated like the defeated men or the captured woman. No assurances which way the matter may come down for the infants. According to Summer Moon, the Comanche were not trying to be impure, it was just their cultural origins that they followed.

The Comanche’s were, for our purposes, the Mongolian hordes of Asia between 1206 and 1368. They had the same physical features, a similar societal milieu and a fierceness for fighting from mobile ponies as did the Mongols; and their nation spread as did the Mongols, through war and causing catastrophe on others. The genius of each society was their ability to learn war from a horse was strategically more potent in open plains warfare than relying on infantry.

It is anguish to read the horrors one must learn to study to understand the history told here; but If it is mankind you wish to understand, this book is a step in the right direction for cataloging the nature of our species as horrific. As harsh as its contents may be, it is told wonderfully well, as its facts and stories are an organized compilation of data that delineates the people’s origin, development, wars, tactics and demise. Very fact intensive, but told in short episodes focusing on individuals and their part in the overall history. Oh yes, and the story has a wonderful flip in characters at the end. The book has a surprise ending.

I have always admired our native American heritage. This book though, was a drastic realization the American Indian, is no better than then we, and we are no better than them. In effect, we still have the horror of our lack of compassion for others to overcome. Can we?

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Amazing story of the West

Second large scale history book I have listened to in 6 months. Growing up in Oklahoma I found it fascinating and filled in a lot of unknown and forgotten history of this region. Highly recommend and will likely buy book as reference.
Only complaint was mis-pronunciation of the Washita and Pecos rivers. Waw-shi-tah not Wa-sheeta. Pecos is not Peekos. But otherwise enjoyable listen.