Reviews for Empire of the Summer Moon : Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History

Booklist Reviews 2010 April #2
The vast, semi-arid grasslands of the southern Great Plains could be dominated by hunters and warriors on horseback. In the first half of the nineteenth century, the Comanches, often referred to as "lords of the Plains," were the single most powerful military force in the region, to the frustration of both the Mexican and U.S. governments. In this engrossing chronicle, award-winning journalist Gwynne traces the rise of the Comanche people from their roots as primitive bands of hunter-gatherers to their mastery of the horse and emergence as the feared power brokers of the area. At the center of the narrative is the charismatic Quanah Parker, who skillfully navigated the gaps between his traditional culture and the emerging, settled culture of the late-nineteenth century. Quanah was the son of a Comanche warrior and a woman named Cynthia Ann Parker, who was kidnapped at the age of nine and chose to stay with the Comanches. Quanah was a brilliant, feared war chief who guided his people in adapting to new realities after their final suppression by the U.S. Calvary. An outstanding addition to western-history collections. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2010 February #2
An appropriately fast-paced life of Comanche leader Quanah Parker and his band, the last Native free riders on the plains.Former Time editor and correspondent Gwynne (The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of BCCI, 1993, etc.) approaches Parker's life as news, opening with an intriguing gambit--namely, that Parker, who died in 1911, had an Anglo mother who, as he said, "love Indian and wild life so well, no want to go back to white folks." Where his mixed blood might have been a demerit in other Indian groups--and certainly in white society of the time--Parker rose quickly to the leadership of the Quahadi band of Comanches as a young man of perhaps only 20. As Gwynne notes, the Comanches kept the Spanish empire from spreading onto the plains beyond Texas, making even the Apaches farther west seem a mild threat by comparison. The Quahadi band, whom he characterizes as "magnificently aloof," were the toughest of the lot. When Americans entered the picture in the 1830s and beyond, the Quahadis fought them so hard that by the 1870s whole counties formerly settled by Texas ranchers and farmers were depopulated. Parker's tough leadership eventually proved no match for the combined weight of Texas Rangers, the U.S. Army and other heavily armed enemies, who finally broke the Quahadi resistance after removing other Comanche bands to reservations and reducing their number to no more than 2,000. After surrender, Parker continued to insist on preserving Comanche ways, particularly an illegal peyote cult. Gwynne considers Parker alongside Geronimo, the better-known Apache leader, and finds the latter wanting in the comparison. Parker remained a leader of his people to the end, writes the author, one who "looked resolutely forward toward something better" rather than surrendering to embitterment or allowing himself to be put on display as a wild Indian now tamed. "I no monkey," he insisted.A welcome contribution to the history of Texas, Westward expansion and Native America. Copyright Kirkus 2010 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2010 February #2

This is a highly readable, but problematic, account of Cynthia Ann Parker, captured by the Comanche Indians at age nine, and her son Quanah Parker, who grew up to become the most famous of all Comanche chiefs. Gwynne (The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride into the Secret Heart of the BCCI) proves adept at using primary sources to illuminate the military history of the Comanche empire and the Texas frontier. He gives good attention to John Coffee Hays and the Texas Rangers, and to Gen. Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, whom Gwynne describes as the "Anti-Custer." Yet this work is marred by a surprising insensitivity, with frequent references to Indian women as "squaws," and sparse information on Comanche individuals without any white heritage. VERDICT Readers wanting more biographical information on the Parkers should turn to Jo Ella Powell Exley's Frontier Blood: The Saga of the Parker Family, while those wishing more of a Comanche view should see Pekka Hämäläinen's The Comanche Empire. Despite its title, this work is at its best as a Texas-centric militaristic interpretation of the 19th-century Comanche wars of the southern Plains.--Nathan E. Bender, Laramie, WY

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 February #1

Journalist Gwynne tracks one of the U.S.'s longest-running military conflicts in this gripping history of the war against the Comanche Indians on the high plains of Texas and Colorado. The Comanches stood for decades as the single most effective military force on the southern plains; their mastery of horseback warfare and their intimate knowledge of the trackless desert of the plains stymied the armies of Spain and Mexico, and blocked American westward expansion for 40 years. Gwynne's account orbits around Quanah Parker (ca. 1852-1911), the brilliant war chief whose resistance raged even as the Comanche, increasingly demoralized by the loss of the buffalo and the American military's policy of total annihilation, retreated into the reservation. Rigorously researched and evenhanded, the book paints both the Comanches and Americans in their glory and shame, bravery and savagery. The author's narrative prowess is marred only by his fondness for outdated anthropological terminology ("low barbarian," "premoral" culture). That aside, the book combines rich historical detail with a keen sense of adventure and of the humanity of its protagonists. (May)

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