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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
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (526 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
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

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

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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!!!

19 people found this helpful

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Descriptive Biased story telling

I have been reading many books on civilization, human nature, human experience to suffering and psychology. Because I am Canadian, I am greatly interested in how civilization progressed across North America and I got this book to learn more. It had great ratings. I was really unhappy with the biases that this book displays with word choices in general. It was also quite disheartening to find that the book wasn’t factual, yet the information is based on assumptions and undocumented or cited stories. This book would probably appeal to Republican or Conservative individuals. I come from a well read background and in my opinion this book was difficult to get through, as it’s sources were of poor quality and I wasn’t fond of the “story” style it was written in. I was hoping it to be based on facts and have citations of those facts or first hand accounts cited during the book. This is so that I could remember and refer to them later on, should I wish to delve in deeper of the background. However, with that said, the stories are very interesting and thought provoking. I often wondered why there was not enough documentation of these events and stories, but I do understand that during these times a lot of information was lost or destroyed. I hope to find more books surrounding the key events in this story and read more about it. Strangely, painful, I did enjoy moving through the book from this biased story telling point of view as it simply expands my understanding of how others think and interpret the world. I think I would like to do more research on this book to try and understand it better, which may change my point of view.

9 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.

6 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

4 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.

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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.

3 people found this helpful

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Phenomenal Look Into A Relatively Forgotten Past

This book simply blew me away. To think that a character such as Quanah experienced the transition from Plains Indian to rancher within a lifetime is simply astonishing. An excellent look into life of the Comanches and Americans during the settling of the southern USA/Mexico region. Fascinating stories that highlight the ills of colonization, empire and the beauty within the human experience. Very easy to listen to and narrated very well.

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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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Amazing!

First audio book ive bought and it was amazing. Perfectly paced, told well, and shocking to hear how hard it was to take the last bit of the west and the stories within it.

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  • Luc
  • 2022-02-23

Insane book just reread it

This book will stick in your mind. Wish there was more like this. Very well done

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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.

91 people found this helpful

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  • fowler
  • 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.

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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.

69 people found this helpful

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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.

58 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.

58 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.

34 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.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Lemons
  • 2019-11-13

A Flawed, Important History: Troublesome Narration

Living on the Llano Estacado, I enjoyed listening to Gwynne's history. It is a narrative largely obscured from the land, save for some historical markers and large arrows that signal where Quannah's band stayed. It becomes important, then, for us to acknowledge who dwelt on the land before cities like Lubbock and Amarillo.

Gwynne does well in setting up the narrative, although there are some potential problems. I appreciated how he did not shy away from the horrors of Comanche (Nʉmʉnʉʉ) and Texas Ranger raids. Writing about the Texans, he uses historical records to show how they viewed indigenous people. While Gwynne does recognize the Nʉmʉnʉʉ's strength in combat and economy (discussing the network of comancheros and horse trades), there were times where his descriptions on the Comanche bands relied too heavily on terms like "savage." It suggests a common narrative for indigenous American tribes: they were doomed to disappear once settlers encroached on their lands. Reading this text alongside additional Comanche accounts and Pekka Hämäläinen's Comanche Empire might be useful to get a broader account of the conflict that drove the Nʉmʉnʉʉ to their reservation.

My chiefest complaint with the audio recording is the performance. The narrator often pronounced Spanish words like Llano Estacado and Blanco Canyon incorrectly. These moments made the narrator sound unprofessional and took me out of the narrative. It also suggests that the production company did not exercise due diligence in researching the correct pronunciation.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous
  • 2020-08-19

How does this get so much praise?

This book was downright racist. The author somehow paints paints genocide as natural white destiny and Native American culture as barbarian savages. The lack of nuance is incredible, the fact this was published so recently is equally astonishing. I hope the prospective reader takes there money or credit elsewhere. There is no place in the world for this kind of whitewashing of history.

17 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.

17 people found this helpful