by S.C. Gwynne
In the tradition of “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”, a stunningly vivid historical account of the forty-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 readers 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.