Title: Empire of the Summer Moon
Author: S. C. Gwynne
Number of Pages: 319
Plot Overview: This book focuses on two parallel stories: the fortunes of the Comanche tribes, the most ferocious warriors to ever inhabit the North American continent, and Quanah Parker, their last and most brilliant chief.
Thoughts: This book is an exploration of the rough, brutal people that lived and died on the Texas frontier. These are not the Native Americans you remember from first-grade field trips. The Comanches were nomadic, masters of the horse, lethal with a bow or lance. They made war simply because it was what they were good at. Singlehandedly, they halted the frontier and ‘manifest destiny’ . Their most successful opponents were the Texas Rangers, scruffy, lawless, vehement, and vicious, who took on the massive task of finding and exterminating the Plains peoples in their heartlands. Clearly, this is a topic that is difficult to write about without stepping on someone’s toes, but Gwynne proves himself to be an expert in neutrality, neither glorifying the Comanches nor their foes. For that matter, he also refrains from gentrifying either side. However, it included no maps and was noticeably lacking in pictures of that area – it’s a little harder to be engaged with warfare when one can’t visualize it well. Also, sometimes the interweaving of the stories felt clumsy and forced. On a more positive note, Gwynne chooses to engage with the characters rather than focusing exclusively on the battles, which moves this book squarely from mediocre and sometimes dense to interesting and worthwhile.
Other notes: This book has fairly small print and almost no photos.
Other reviews: Tim Giago, at the Huffington Post, has a very different view of this book. Find the review here.
Final Verdict: Very interesting: though it requires a certain perseverance, in the end an illuminating read. Worth your time.