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  • Empire of the Summer Moon

  • Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
  • Written by: S. C. Gwynne
  • Narrated by: David Drummond
  • Length: 15 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History, Americas
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (400 ratings)

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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. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

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

Editorial Review

In a time of expansion in the American West, the Comanche tribe fought to halt and even roll back the drive of white settlers, the Spanish, and the French. Fighting so skillfully that settlers invented the six-gun to rival them, the Comanches had a staggering impact on the development of the fledgling America.

Writer S.C. Gwynne shares the harrowing tale of the four-decades-long struggle for the American West. From the gripping narrative of the Comanche tribe to the near-legendary rise of its last great chief, this is a historical account that feels like an epic fiction saga.

Narrator David Drummond is a highly seasoned professional with more than 150 releases under his belt. He won an AudioFile Earphones award for Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay, and is known for his nonfiction work. In Empire of the Summer Moon, David’s smooth and steady voice builds a colourful world where hours pass unnoticed as he brings history to life.

Gwynne was inspired to create an account of the Comanche after learning small pieces of information about the tribe, and realizing just how little he knew about early American settlement. Through original research and hard work, Gwynne created a narrative to enlighten countless listeners to this untold history.

This work has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.

What listeners say about Empire of the Summer Moon

Average Customer Ratings
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Story Told From Colonial Stand Point

As an indigenous man it made me sick had to stop listening part way through. Derogatory terms used for indigenous all through out the story. but that is how it is in the world most stories are always told from the colonizers point of view. I come from a long lineage of First Nations artist storytellers and historians. This author had the audacity to say that we never kept a record of our history that's just hilarious!!!

14 people found this helpful

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"Awe-inspiring"

S.C. Gwynne holds back little in their writings of the Comanche and their struggle to hold power over the great plains during the American expansion of the 19th century. The graphic detail of the Comanche raiding party "rituals" as well as the American government's "solution" to the Comanche give an unparalleled recount of the not so distant history of that region. One should also note the anthropological significance of this novel. A thorough and descriptive display of Nomadic horse culture which one cannot help but find similar to that of people of the Steppe in the 13th century. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in American history.

4 people found this helpful

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A book that stays with you after your done with it

A great book. Eye opener, but cant get over the fact how the author seems to over rationalize the nasty stuff the whites did and on other hand over exaggerate what the natives did. Non the less take everything lightly. 8.5/10

2 people found this helpful

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Extraordinary!!!

Easily one of the very greatest book I've experienced. Horrifying and tender, brutally violent and all-too-human, every chapter of this book was extremely engaging. I will forever view North American history differently as I have a new lens to filter my knowledge through. Gwynne's writing is shocking in it's well researched first-hand accounts, as well as it's clarity and coherence. Such a pleasure to breeze through this fascinating history. Highly recommend.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kb
  • 2019-12-16

Amazing listen

Captivating, and in my opinion extremely objective. The author describes the Old West in vivid detail, and brings out the perspectives of both settlers and Natives in the Great Plains.

1 person found this helpful

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Great story, bad narration.

The narration sounds like a generic text to talk. Story was great, but had troubles finishing this book because of how terrible the narrator was.

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A small portion of our history delightfully told.

The details of the story give the listener the ability to try to understand the time in which this happened. That is why it takes time to share. From the snipits of newspaper clippings and journals a magnificent story unfolds.

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amazing book but emotionally hard to get through

amazing book but emotionally hard to get through. this is one of the best untold stories of American history.

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One of the best books about Apache Empire

The story had managed to consume me for the whole duration of the book. Unbelievably great performance of the narrator kept me engaged until the end.

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The Roots of Modern America

This story is an outstanding account of a period of time which formed much of the dynamics that shape modern North American politics and thought. Learning about the history of the Comanche helped me to better understand today's politics, my own origin as a descendant of white settlers in North America, and my children's heritage as persons of aboriginal descent.

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  • Josiah D. Blaisdell
  • 2019-08-30

Pride and shame

Wow, this was such a good book. I laughed, I cried, I cringed. There was good, bad and ugly but it was all real. I don’t think a book has ever given me simultaneous feelings of such pride and shame for history. I really hope someday that Quanah’s home can be restored. If you google it, it’s still there in Oklahoma but is in disrepair.

39 people found this helpful

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  • maf
  • 2019-12-21

Difficult to endure narrator

The narrator is difficult to endure. The voice cadence is unnatural, inflection of tone also unnatural. Almost robotic. Book however is fascinating.

57 people found this helpful

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  • Shlomo Tuchband
  • 2018-06-21

Well written and very interesting.

This is a history book, written in story form. I checked a number of statements and accounts of events and they agreed with outside sources. I have no reason to doubt the author but some of the events were completely new to me. This was very well written, especially when considering that many related things were happening and different viewpoints were shaped at the same time in different parts of this vast land. This subject is not a huge hobby or interest for me to follow but I was fully engaged in this book. Highly recommended.

45 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-01-13

A story that needed telling.

In Empire of the Summer Moon, Gwynne details not only what the daily lives were like for the Comanche people, but how their presence and strength hindered America's westward expansion into the great plains. It provides much needed perspective for people who do not understand the intricacies and danger of a life lived in the "wild west".

Hearing about a woman who was abducted by the Comanches and then refused to assimilate back into american culture when "saved" really tells you something about the life on the land that the Comanches had. I learned so much and the time flew by while listening to this book.

20 people found this helpful

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  • wms2003
  • 2017-06-30

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.

63 people found this helpful

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  • Drew A.
  • 2021-06-14

Racist Drivel, Historically Inaccurate

All sources cited, apart from a couple of interviews with Quanah himself, are from the Colonizers ("referred to as the 'civilized,' 'white man,' and 'settlers' consistently). The author makes sweeping generalizations about Plains Indians and other Tribal Nations (referred to as 'savage,' 'heathens,' 'filthy,' and 'primitive' consistently). I tried reading past the obvious racist language and perspective but gave up after finding numerous factual inaccuracies, to the point that reading this book will worsen one's understanding of North American history rather than enhance it...Some small examples of 'facts' that are neither well-researched nor accurate: the timelines of the development of agriculture are off by a few thousand years (with the author demonstrating an obvious lack of understanding of North American indigenous husbandry and cultivation practices; "Buffalo" (-should be called bison) are said to be a stupid animal (using an infamous 19th-century White bison hunter's account) while contemporary bison ranchers and biologists unilaterally call them very intelligen; the Comanche are stated to have been the only 'tribe' to have mastered horse breeding, without even considering the Nez-Perce who are well known for this as well. Finally, anyone writing a book about a People really should include sources from said People...The Comanche are not extinct - There is a lot of Tribal Knowledge that has been passed down through oral histories and traditions, and yet none of this is included. (Quanah's granddaughter was interviewed, but primarily to verify facts about his life, not generalities of Comanche culture and history.) If you want to read a book that's essentially written by the people responsible for the destruction of the Comanche and their way of life, this is the one for you. If you want a narrative about the filthy, war-hungry, savage Indians that feels like an old black and white Western film, you've found it. For an understanding of Comanche culture and history, look elsewhere.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Rick
  • 2016-10-07

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.

79 people found this helpful

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  • Sare
  • 2017-05-09

Sweeping, Epic, Thorough, Efforltess Listen

Would you consider the audio edition of Empire of the Summer Moon to be better than the print version?

Listening to the story gives it that around the campfire feel that seems very appropriate for this book.On the other hand, this kind of book has lots of information, and I prefer to have a hardcopy in those cases, so that I can make quick notes and refer back to previous passages.

What did you like best about this story?

I loved that it weaved together a pretty thorough story of the settling of the West, the frontier in Texas, history of firearms, the influence of Spain and Mexico, the Comanche culture, pioneer ignorance and ingenuity, Texas Rangers, and the transition of Quanah into a statesman.

What about David Drummond’s performance did you like?

He's very even! No issues with voice or volume modulation and his voice is very pleasant. He does a minimum interpretation of characters, very few character voices, and that is something I definitely appreciate.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

There's a lot of history here. Better broken off and chewed in pieces.

23 people found this helpful

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  • Sharon
  • 2018-05-07

Educational

This was a hard lesson on American history. The domination of man over man expressed in horrific ways. I will listen to it again after my feeling stop hurting.

16 people found this helpful

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  • E. Alison Holman
  • 2021-05-09

Racist anti-indigenous storytelling

I had hoped to get some interesting American history outbid this but was sorely disappointed by a story so punctuated with racist inferences about indigenous people that I couldn’t keep listening. The story itself also seemed to be embellished with so many details that there is no way they could know the accuracy of what they were saying....just a bunch of racist crap.
Indigenous people deserve to have their story told with honest, historical facts based on real documents.

3 people found this helpful