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  • Empire of the Summer Moon

  • Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches
  • By: S. C. Gwynne
  • Narrated by: David Drummond
  • Length: 15 hrs and 4 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (413 ratings)

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Summary

In the tradition of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, a stunningly vivid historical account of the 40-year battle between Comanche Indians and white settlers for control of the American West, centering on Quanah, the greatest Comanche chief of them all. 

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 is 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 tribal 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. 

Comanche boys became adept bareback riders by age six; full Comanche braves were considered the best horsemen who ever rode. 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.

Against this backdrop Gwynne presents the compelling drama of Cynthia Ann Parker, a nine-year-old girl who was kidnapped by Comanches in 1836. She grew to love her captors and became infamous as the "White Squaw" who refused to return until her tragic capture by Texas Rangers in 1860. 

More famous still was her son Quanah, a warrior who was never defeated and whose guerrilla wars in the Texas Panhandle made him a legend.

S. C. Gwynne's account of these events is meticulously researched, intellectually provocative and, above all, thrillingly told.

©2010 S.C. Gwynne (P)2020 W F Howes

What listeners say about Empire of the Summer Moon

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Racist and one-sided account

This book made me quite angry. It is seen too much from the point of view of the white Americans e.g. referring to the Comanche Indians as being backwards and barbarians and not really giving much insight into their beliefs etc. It talks about their cruelty which I assume is true e.g. taking captives as slaves (as civilised white people have never done that, have they?). However, it downplays the fact that the white people were knowingly engaged in genocide whilst the Indians were literally fighting for their own existence and that of their whole way of life. The accounts of the hunting down and killing of the Indians from the point of view of the whites fails to explain how frightening it must have been for the last few Indians.

58 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

So I actually read this book a few years ago when I picked it up at the airport while travelling back from NYC.

However it was so good that since using audible I have constantly looked for it and was so pleased when it was eventually released.

In my opinion this book is a must read for anyone who is interested in American Indians and the history of the last frontier, the American West.

The author is honest and gives a balanced view about both white Americans and American plains Indians. The descriptions of the open frontier and the fastness of empty land is just incredible.

The Comanches use of the horse and their way of life is truly worth reading about. That perfect equilibrium they had as humans with nature is something that we could all learn from today. They had no church, no elitism, leaders of the tribe where picked on merit not because of who their father was, they didn’t farm just lived off the once abundant buffaloes, they owned no property, never stayed in the same place for months or years on end and didn’t have to answer to a king or religious leader from far away. The life for the women was particularly hard though and they were given little standings within the tribe. However there at one with nature and the surroundings is something that really intrigues me and something I wish we could do more of today.

I highly recommend it.

21 people found this helpful

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Truly Epic

The Comanche story is truly epic, breathtaking, often harrowing, heartbreaking and exhilarating tale. It will open your eyes to the truly explosive violence and drama that occurred when a fierce stoneage culture of arguably the greatest horse riding warriors on earth collided head on with the unstoppable force of white "progress" in the last North American frontier. Brilliantly read by David Drummond.

14 people found this helpful

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Great Listen

My first Audiobook on Native American history and stories. Such an interesting and well put together listen. Good job by the narrator.

9 people found this helpful

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I expected to find something else...

...about the history of the Indian tribes native to America. This book was an education and informs as much about the white settler's motives as the natives reaction to them. It may help to explain a little of why America is the way it is today. Quanna is an incredible figure in history worth knowing.

8 people found this helpful

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Apology for genocide

I bought this because I am interested in learning more about characters in the history of the indigenous people of the world. Many readers have said that they learned a lot about the comanche from reading this book. I was in two minds about whether to persevere with it despite its racist portrayal of the native “Americans” as “primitives” and “savages”, as “hostiles” who sought to murder the [white] simple farming folk who dared to try and civilise the land. At one point, we hear how “human settlements” first arrived to find “Indians” waiting to destroy them. I didn’t think that this sort of writing would be published by any mainstream publisher. So, while many people may have learned a lot about the Comanche, it’s hard to quell my suspicions that the source of this learning is flawless. In fact, a search for reviews in the indigenous media suggests that the book is full of inaccuracies, untruths, wild supposition and outright fiction.

The author claims that his intention was to revise the myth that the Indians were victims - he accepts that they were the victims of some horrific acts, but disputes that they should be seen as innocent dupes. They were bad people too, he seems to say. And he proves that by writing torture porn to describe the death they wreaked on individuals and for “balance” he acknowledges that the Civilisers often performed acts of barbarity against a generic mass of unnamed people. We are asked to consider how Comanche warriors tortured and raped and killed. Great detail is provided. But the whites aren’t given the same sort of consideration - at least not in the first five chapters that I listened to.

I’m sure that S.C. Gwynne did not set out to write an apology for genocide. I think this book is an example of an attempt at balance written by an amateur historian from the side of the genocidists. It was too much for this listener and I sent the book back.

6 people found this helpful

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Awesome

Loved everything about this book, I couldn't stop listening, I recommend this book to everyone.

6 people found this helpful

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Gruesome

Details gruesome but there is a general feeling that you have heard the real story. The savagery on both sides makes it hard to take a standpoint. I enjoyed it.

6 people found this helpful

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Brilliant research

Absolutely fabulous book. Nothing held back. Learnt what actually went on in the old West.
Loved it so much bought a hard copy for myself and one for my brother . Narrator was first class, just the right tone of voice for the book. Wonderfully read. Thank you to author and Narrator.

6 people found this helpful

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fascinating history

somewhat different from Hollywood version of the West.
a picture of greed for land trampling over native Indian rights.
brutal but fascinating tale.

5 people found this helpful