One of the reasons I'm enamored with stories of the American West is they share this consistent theme of progress at a terrible cost. For many, much was lost, and for others, much was gained. Once upon a time North America was this vast expanse of wilderness, populated by a multitude of tribes and untouched by the modern world, and then in a relative instant that way of life was whisked away (though some would say consumed) by civilization. This is the unified story of all mankind: The rise and fall of societies while the human race goes on. The story of the Comanches is also part of that larger story—of remembering what once was and no longer is.
The Comanches were, in a word, calamitous. They thrived on primacy; on the destruction of those around them, be it whites, Mexicans or other Indians. They were not the Hopi-like people our idealistic imaginings of life before the Europeans make them out to be. And neither did they just kill for territorial reasons. Sometimes it was for revenge; sometimes it was for the pure sport of it. The tortures they inflicted on a whim would give you nightmares. A warrior's heart indeed.
Empire of the Summer Moon by S. C. Gwynne succeeds in capturing the entire history of the Comanches by relating it through the narrative of two individuals: Cynthia Ann Parker, a young girl captured by the tribe in 1836 and subsequently lived with them for the next 24 years, and her firstborn son, Quanah Parker, one of the Comanches most effective leaders and also its last.